Manziel episode could stagger NCAA

It’s come to this — Congress thinks the NCAA has low approval ratings.

As details of Johnny Manziel’s purported payments for autograph signings continue to trickle out — ESPN reported Tuesday that Manziel had received $7,500 from an autograph dealer — public opinion has moved firmly behind Manziel. Polling my Twitter followers on whether they believe Manziel should be ruled ineligible for selling his own autographs 95 percent of fans, representing a diverse cross section of rooting interests, do not want Manziel suspended.

The reason?

At long last the hypocrisy of the NCAA’s gilded rules of amateurism have come to the forefront.

Most aren’t focusing on Manziel’s wrongdoing they are focusing on the stupidity of the NCAA rules.

Enough reasonable people have started to ask a question that has been hanging in the air for decades — why should players make billions for the NCAA and the colleges they play for while making nothing themselves? After all, we don’t require Taylor Swift to sing in the Vanderbilt chorus for three years — while recording albums that the school profits off — before she’s allowed to turn professional.

The storming of the college football Bastille has begun.

Nothing has changed for the NCAA.

Yet everything has changed for the NCAA.

It’s always this way when revolutions happen.

After decades of inaction, people have finally, suddenly, had enough with inane NCAA regulation. I tend to think social media has been instrumental in bringing about great change in college football. For decades, the college football power brokers were content to say a playoff was impossible. Then Twitter and Facebook happened. And when the masses had power it was suddenly hard to discount the constant drumbeat of anger that the BCS provoked.

First, the BCS crumbled under the tide of college football anger.

The NCAA is next.

It’s only a matter of time before NCAA president Mark Emmert channels Marie Antoinette and responds to questions about why players have no right to buy bread off their autographs by suggesting that the players eat cake instead.

Manziel is an immature dolt who may have put himself in an untenable position by flouting the rules, but most fans aren’t focusing on the autograph signings, they’re focusing on the absurdity of the rule itself. Nearly 100 percent of fans don’t believe that Manziel should be ruled ineligible even if he sold his autographs. That kind of near unanimity is almost impossible to marshall in today’s Internet age. It takes a special kind of idiocy to produce these results.

And the NCAA is a special kind of idiocy.

Inevitably a few diehards still trot out the tired old, "Rules are rules," canard, but what happens when the rules are so absurd that no reasonable person can support them anymore? Isn’t that what causes all revolutions, when one person points out that we don’t have to continue to play by the same old tired set of nonsensical rules? If Americans who say "rules are rules," had been in charge in the late 1700s, we’d still be British. These were the same people who had no issue with taxation without representation. Throughout our history — and indeed the world’s — eventually reasonable people have had enough with stupid rules and changed them via revolution.

Now, college football is entertainment and its governance structure is far less serious than just about any historical example of revolution, but just because college football is entertainment doesn’t mean it should be subject to absurd and illogical rules.

Stupidity anywhere is a threat to intelligence everywhere.

And the NCAA is stupid as hell.

The absurdity of everyone else surrounding Johnny Manziel being able to sell his autographs — including the school itself — while Manziel can’t sell his autograph is too far down the wonderland rabbit hole for most reasonable fans to accept. Last year Texas A&M made $37 million off Manziel, its stadium is expanding for a cost of several hundred million dollars, applications are surging, recruiting is on fire, and Johnny Football is supposed to bide his time and watch everyone else get rich off his talents? Without pocketing a cent himself while everyone else sells his autographs?

Right now he’s guaranteed nothing.

What if Manziel’s career ended in this year’s Alabama game, just as Tyrone Prothro’s career ended several years ago against Florida? Prothro works as a Tuscaloosa bankteller now. A future payday isn’t guaranteed for any player, with every snap Manziel puts his future ability to make a living playing football on the line. So why shouldn’t he be able to profit off his talents. Especially when everyone but him is doing so.

Is Manziel the most sympathetic plaintiff here? Of course not. His family’s wealthy. He didn’t sign autographs because he needed to buy diapers for his infant son or daughter, he did it because, according to an autograph dealer, he wanted new rims on his car.

So be it, Manziel’s not a saint, he’s immature and selfish. But in a capitalistic society, we’re all immature and selfish to a certain degree. (Ask all those third world families living on $3 a day how generous they think Americans are). But it’s his talent, he should be able to profit off of his talent just like every other American who is over the age of 18 is able to profit off his or her talent. If everyone else can buy whatever they want by selling his signature, why shouldn’t Manziel be able to do so as well?

Manziel’s the one who makes his autograph valuable, but now Manziel is just getting everybody else rich.

That’s why the public is squarely behind Manziel. Just like the public was squarely behind A.J. Green a couple of years ago when he sold his own jersey and was forced to sit for four games. Slowly, the tides have turned. We may not be able to handle schools paying for players — sorry, Cam — but by and large we think players should be able to profit off their own names and talent.

The NCAA’s rule isn’t new, but it’s under seige in a new way.

The revolution may not be televised, but it will be Twittered and Facebooked. The NCAA is a dead man walking, we just don’t know the execution date yet.

The revolution is underway and now it’s just a question of how far it will spread.

What would happen if Texas A&M held a public press conference and announced that Johnny Manziel had sold his autograph, but that A&M was playing him anyway because the rule is stupid and the NCAA can’t be trusted to adequately enforce the rules of the sport?

I think the public would cheer. An organization without the power to enforce its rules is worthless. And right now the NCAA lacks the power to enforce its rules.

Indeed, if the NCAA could be guillotined, its head would already be resting in the basket.

The king of college athletics is dead.