So Texas A&M’s football season may not be lost after all.
Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel will be suspended for the first half of Saturday’s game against Rice, putting an end to the NCAA investigation into the sophomore quarterback.
The NCAA and school released a joint statement saying that there was no evidence that Manziel received money during an exchange for autographs. That ruling was based on information obtained and on statements from Manziel, who met with the NCAA Sunday. Due to an inadvertent violation regarding the signing of certain autographs, Manziel was hit with the penalty.
In addition to the ½-game ban, Manziel will address the team regarding the situation and lessons learned. The school will also revise its future education concerning athlete autographs.
“Texas A&M University would like to thank the NCAA staff, not only for its fairness and professionalism throughout this process, but also for the expediency of its actions,” Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman said in a statement. “Texas A&M is a proud member of the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference and, as such, we will continue to abide by the rules governing the association and the conference. Texas A&M is committed to competing with integrity and sportsmanship, and we will continue to ensure strict compliance guidelines for our student-athletes, coaches and supporters.”
With Manziel out for the half, the Aggies will turn to either true freshman Kenny Hill or junior Matt Joeckel to start the first half against the Owls.
Texas A&M University Systems chancellor John Sharp, who went on the offensive in support of Manziel, lauded the school for its investigation.
“I am proud of the way both Coach Sumlin and Johnny handled this situation, with integrity and honesty,” Sharp said in a statement. “We all take the Aggie Code of Honor very seriously and there is no evidence that either the university or Johnny violated that code.” The Manziel penalty was handed down by the school and agreed to by the NCAA.
“Student-athletes are often asked for autographs from fans, but unfortunately, some individuals’ sole motivation in seeking an autograph is for resale,” NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs Kevin Lennon said. “It is important that schools are cognizant and educate student-athletes about situations in which there is a strong likelihood that the autograph seeker plans to resell the items.”
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, who hasn’t talked about the incident this week, lauded Manziel for how he handled the situation Wednesday morning.
“I thought from the beginning, from a practice standpoint, from a meeting standpoint he’s been very focused,” Sumlin said during the Southeastern Conference teleconference. “On the field and how he’s handled things meeting wise, locker room wise, everything around football he’s been extremely sharp and focused.”
Manziel has not been made available to the media since the autograph scandal became public in early August following an ESPN Outside the Lines report.