Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s about that time again — college football season is upon us. Undoubtedly, the biggest story heading into the 2013 season is the cloud of scandal following Texas A&M University star quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
The redshirt sophomore has been in a world of scrutiny this offseason, thanks in large part to the de facto worldwide leader in sports, ESPN. Throughout the winter, Manziel was placed under a microscope and criticized by the national media for seemingly trivial offenses, most of which were alcohol-related — non-issues in reality, considering that almost every 20-year-old in college does the same.
But in early August, a real issue finally came up concerning “Johnny Football,” one that brings his eligibility into question. An anonymous broker came forward and told ESPN that he paid Manziel $7,500 to sign collectible helmets in January. That would be a clear violation of the NCAA’s amateurism rules.
Considering that Manziel’s father made a fortune in the oil industry, it seems silly for him to feel the need to accept money he knows could endanger his college football career.
Regardless, this is what allegedly occurred, and it is another incident that calls into question the fairness of NCAA rules.
Manziel is not the first to have those kinds of accusations thrown at him. In 2010, Auburn’s Cam Newton came under fire for having allegedly asked schools for an amount between $100,000 and $180,000 in exchange for his athletic services. The NCAA eventually closed its investigation without being able to substantiate the allegations, leaving Newton’s eligibility intact, as well as his title as the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner.
Despite the fact that the NCAA accused each Heisman winner of receiving improper benefits, there is a distinct difference between the two alleged incidents. What Newton was accused of, in my eyes, is a far bigger violation of the amateurism rules.
Seeking out a large sum of money in exchange for an agreement to play football at the paying school is simply asking for a signing bonus, much like the ones newly acquired rookies and free agents receive in professional sports.
The pay Newton supposedly received is essentially pay-for-play, which is a total annihilation of the amateur status of a college athlete.
Manziel might be accused of receiving money, but it was from a third party in exchange for some signatures, not athletic performance. Although he made his name playing football, he is not being paid to play it.
Whether the NCAA likes it or not, there are people out there who are willing to pay for the autographs of college stars such as Manziel, yet they forbid them to profit from their own name. Meanwhile, as ESPN’s Jay Bilas brilliantly pointed out via Twitter, the NCAA has no problem making money off players’ names.
Bilas tweeted screenshots of search results on the NCAA shop website for queries such as “Johnny Manziel,” “Jadeveon Clowney” and “Tajh Boyd,” which all yielded results for the players’ respective jerseys. Even though the jerseys do not bear the players’ names, they do display their numbers, and as the search results of their names indicate, the NCAA clearly intends to profit off their names while the athletes sit high and dry with empty pockets. If people are willing to pay money for a player’s signature, how can it be fair that the player doesn’t get paid?
Not everyone is in favor of paying athletes outright in the form of signing bonuses or salaries, and that’s understandable. However, allowing a player to make money off his own name and stardom through mediums such as autographs and endorsements seems like a no-brainer.
Ben Standen is a senior studying economics and a columnist for The Post. Do you think what Manziel did should be a NCAA violation? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.