NCAA FB

Column: Why wouldn't Johnny Football play?

Share This Story

   
 
(Eds: With AP Photos.)By JIM LITKEAP Sports Columnist

Of course Johnny Football is going to play Saturday against Rice.

Why wouldn't he?

He's being investigated by the NCAA, not NCIS. Cam Newton got away from those gumshoes with more than enough time to cram in an eventful final season at Auburn. So did Terrelle Pryor, even after his coach at the time, Ohio State's Jim Tressell, knew he'd broken plenty of rules. And look how both of those distinguished alumni turned out: making real money in the NFL, instead of the chump change their former classmates with degrees have to settle for now.

Besides, Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp has already cleared Manziel. That was in an email he sent around to friends of the program last week - before admitting he never spoke to Manziel about allegations that he'd exchanged autographs for cash.

''Don't have to. I don't have to hear from him,'' Sharp breezily told a local TV station in College Station that asked about the email.

Right. Because who bothers with hard evidence when half-cocked intuition will do?

''I don't have to hear from him,'' Sharp repeated for emphasis. ''I can hear from his original accusers and what they're saying now.''

Whether or not the NCAA consulted those original accusers, they had enough questions to grill Manziel for six hours during a Sunday meeting. According to CBSSports.com, Manziel denied ever asking for, or receiving, any cash.

I suppose someone with faith in the wholesome enterprise that is big-time college sports could sign 4,400 footballs, photos, mini-helmets and whatever else you can find for sale on e-bay over the span of a month and convince themselves they were all headed for kids or charities. It was possible to believe that about Tim Tebow, for instance, when he was at Florida. But not Johnny Football.

One glance at a profile of Manziel in ESPN The Magazine reveals a kid on the verge of turning 21 who is much more interested in the luxe life than campus life. It's not the money he's after, per se, since Manziel grew up in a family that always had plenty. He loves the celebrity that comes with being a college star, but chafes at the restraints.

Even so, it's hard not to root for Manziel and against the NCAA, if only because everyone else in the game is already on the take: the coaches, athletic departments, universities and their TV enablers. Like Newton and Pryor, who actually could have used - in NCAA parlance - the ''improper'' or ''impermissible'' benefits being thrown around, Manziel figured out how to game the system, too. And just like them he'll probably flee to the pros before the NCAA enforcers can drop the velvet hammer on his school.

Yet everyone at A&M, from coach Kevin Sumlin on to chancellor Sharp, knows how much value Manziel brought to the table last season, and how much more he's likely to create this one - even if someday A&M is ordered to hand some of it back. That's why they began calculating the risks since the allegations first surfaced in early August and almost certainly signed on to go ahead and play Manziel.

We say ''almost certainly'' because a gag order issued by athletics director Kevin Hyman earlier in the week instructed everyone associated with the program, including ''our student-athletes to refrain from commenting on or answering questions regarding the status of our starting quarterback, Johnny Manziel.''

(Wait. Did Hyman call Manziel ''our starting quarterback?'' Slip of the tongue? OK, never mind.)

At least one report quoted an unnamed NCAA source saying the organization would render a decision in the case Wednesday. Given the foot-dragging in the NCAA's botched investigation into a pay-for-play scheme at Miami, that would be unusually swift. Then again, considering how well lawyered up both Manziel and the school are - A&M retained Lightfoot, Franklin and White, from Birmingham, Ala., the same firm that got Newton off the hook when pay-for-play allegations surfaced - it likely means investigators lack either the resources or stomach to pursue the matter much further.

That sounds just about right. The college season kicks off the next day with North Carolina at South Carolina, and by then everyone needs to be focused on the real reason the games are played - to turn a hefty profit for everyone involved save the kids who actually play them.

Whoever said cheaters never prosper apparently didn't follow college football. It happens all the time.

---

Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at www.twitter.com/JimLitke .

Tagged: Ohio State, Auburn, Texas A&M, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by

College Football Pick'em on FOX


NCAA FB Videos

Sumlin annoyed by media's Manziel questions Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Kevin Sumlin responds to questions about life after Johnny Football by toying wi...

AJ Pasquale's journey back to UCLA Posted: Jun 17, 2014
UCLA football ops intern AJ Pasquale describes his own personal journey after th...

Winston issued adult civil citation Posted: Apr 30, 2014
Get the latest news surrounding Jameis Winston's recent shoplifting fiasco.

Get Inside the Locker Room with Scout.com

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Florida_Gators/browse/featuredproduct/759777/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_759000/ff_759777_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Michigan_State_Spartans/browse/featuredproduct/760171/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_760000/ff_760171_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White
    Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_USC_Trojans/browse/featuredproduct/761373/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_761000/ff_761373_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/829709/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829709_xl.jpg&w=100 64.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimso..
    Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_LSU_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/829740/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829740_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple
    Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_Sooners/browse/featuredproduct/830935/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_830000/ff_830935_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish/browse/featuredproduct/861243/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861243_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue
    adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Nebraska_Cornhuskers/browse/featuredproduct/861247/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861247_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapback Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1087345/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1087000/ff_1087345_xl.jpg&w=100 29.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapba..
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1093431/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1093000/ff_1093431_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash