Johnny Manziel Signs His Name Away

Johnny Manziel has been all over the headlines since the season ended for Texas A&M and for the most part it’s been for all the wrong reasons. Johnny Football – as he’s been dubbed by pundits around the country – has done everything in his power to make himself bigger than college football, and for the most part he’s done that and then some. Johnny Football started his rise to fame with an amazing victory over defending national champion Alabama in Tuscaloosa last October. He would then go on to win both the Heisman Trophy and the Cotton Bowl MVP in short order. Apparently his meteoric rise to fame has caused him to go off the deep end because now he’s acting more like Johnny Dangerously than Johnny Football.

Manziel’s behavioral issues are well documented.   There are fights at bars, drunken episodes at frat parties, sleeping through Peyton Manning’s passing camp, youtube videos, and on and on.  You know the whole nine yards.  However, our friend Johnny is now being investigated for the one thing that the NCAA hates the most – profiting off his fame and accomplishments.

Yep, Johnny Manziel is accused of trying to make money off his feats and God-given ability.  This will sorely test the NCAA’s archaic rules against those who dare threaten its monopoly over revenues.  A player’s performance and likeness might be worth many millions of dollars, but during the period that the player is in college, his continued college eligibility rests on forgoing the riches that he generates for others, not least of which the NCAA.

The NCAA is fairly unique in this regard.  Even the vaulted International Olympic Committee has long since abandoned the ridiculous notion that “amateurs” are somehow relevantly defined as a function of realized monetary value. (Third world countries’ participants were kept in poverty in order to maintain their Olympics viability, which simply could no longer be justified.)

Johnny Manziel is not exactly an incidental factor in the economics of Texas A&M.  He sells out its 100,000 seat stadium so you’d think he might be worth more than the cost of his education and a tiny dorm room.  Of course he is.  To the NCAA and to Texas A&M, that is. And to countless others who trade in Manziel-related products and services.  But not to Johnny.  His market value is a future value that will not be realized until, well, the future.  He must first leave the warm embrace of the NCAA and test the NFL, which is by no means a sure thing.  So, while he is a stunningly valuable commodity right here and right now, he is entitled to no part of it’s financial benefits.  That’s the NCAA way.  A player and his family might be living in penury, but the NCAA will not allow enrichment until the player escapes college eligibility restrictions.  Manziel’s family is doing just fine, by the way, but that doesn’t alter the basic inequities of the NCAA rules.

Johnny Manziel allegedly met a sports memorabilia guy in an airport in Miami and struck a deal with this guy to sign a bunch of stuff for a pretty hefty under-the-table pile. Manziel’s said to have signed upwards of 1600 items, much of which were authenticated by various parties at a private signing for memorabilia dealers.  The stuff was then offered on resale websites and, presumably, profits ensued.  The NCAA renders unto this kind of commercial activity a punishment known as ineligibility, which ends all kind of good things, like the player’s college career and the school’s gravy train.

Ah, if only it were that simple.  In this particular instance, Manziel plays on an SEC team.  And the SEC is the one conference that even the NCAA might have cause to pause and consider the implications of its judgment.  I suspect that if the SEC wants this acne-faced teen on TV in the second week of September to host the visiting Alabama Crimson Tide in the most anticipated football game of the upcoming season, then the SEC and Johnny Football are bigger than the NCAA.  I don’t care if Manziel got $100K for signing three balls that were openly sold by Sotheby’s, the SEC’s going to tell the NCAA rules committee to shut up and wait.  Nothing’s going to happen to this kid to prevent CBS from opening its SEC-on-CBS programming to a matchup that’ll surely out-rate the NFL games that weekend.

Johnny Manziel’s in the best conference in the country and he’s the best offensive payer in that conference. Texas A&M is slated all over national television this fall, and it’s not because of anyone other than #2. If the NCAA wants to come out and totally sink its relationships with its advertisers and its television partnerships then it’ll go ahead and suspend Manziel for the entire 2013 season, but that’s more than merely cutting off its nose to spite its face…it’s insanity. It defies the capitalistic system, even the warped NCAA version.

The SEC runs college football.  Nick Saban runs the SEC.  If Nick Saban wants to exact revenge on Johnny Football in Johnny’s House and in front of the biggest audience imaginable, well, then this matchup is going to happen and CBS will air it on September 14th at 7:00 CST