Written By: Derrick Bond
The NCAA has to be joking. With news of a half game suspension for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel breaking earlier we all get a first hand look at how the rules and policies surrounding college (amateur) athletics contradict themselves.
With a highly publicized off season losing no steam after winning the coveted Heisman trophy last year, Manziel was accused of receiving improper benefits for autographing merchandise and allegedly thousands of items. This comes three years after five Ohio State football players were suspended the first five games of the 2011 season for selling items (shoes,awards,rings) with their names on them and receiving discounted tattoos.
It must be very hard to comprehend not being allowed to sell an item with your name on it because its university property and not your own. To quote the movie Friday “its like it’s both of ours, we’ll just keep it down at my house.” This also comes a few years removed from Cam Newton’s one man show aka Heisman trophy winning season at Auburn in which he was accused of receiving improper benefits and his father was found guilty of getting benefits on Cam’s behalf. The rules entail that college athletes are to be treated as regular typical students with no special privileges and benefits. Seriously?
Take it from a recent college grad, free school would have been a dream come true. Free meal plan seems like a benefit. First dibs at picking courses seems nice. Traveling around the country seeing the world while peers are in class seems beneficial. Attending dinners with high end alums seems like a very good way to network, you get the point. The benefits these athletes receive are peanuts compared to the service they perform for the university though.
These athletes are the main reason powerhouses like Alabama, OSU, Florida,USC have remained on top for the entire BCS era. They reload with top recruiting classes each year, They continue to add buildings and expand campuses with the money the sports programs bring in and they generate millions from bowl game appearances. Jersey sells and apparel add to the bank. Athletic programs are also a major part of why the average student (non-athlete) chooses to attend a university.
Academics of course play a part but most people want an education that comes with notoriety and a large alum population to network with. Winning programs provide the platform for all students to use. It’s why I graduated from The Ohio State University and not a smaller probably “cheaper institution where I probably could have received an equal education but had far less connections. The name is important. Seems to me that these institutions are capitalizing immensely on behalf of the students and in return force the athlete to abide by rules that hinder them. I can’t fault an athlete for selling something personal like a jersey if their mother or family back home is struggling with money issues. Which brings me to the defense Manziel who is in a gray area.
Most of the kids we see punished for these “improper” benefits are black kids coming from humble or urban areas making money for white head coaches with six or seven figure contracts and predominantly white universities. Manziel comes from a family with plenty of money from the oil industry. He is a white young man with a black head coach on the rise. His lack of need compared to the others I mentioned takes a level of sympathy away from his situation. It begs the question why would he charge to autograph over 4,000 items when he didn’t need the money?
Athletes sign things everyday but everyone knows that they can’t sign everything and often times they hurry through public venues to avoid signing memorabilia. My guess would be supply and demand after all 4,000 items is 4,000 items. The NCAA has released a statement stating that Manziel was not found guilty today of receiving money to autograph items however he will sit out the first half of A&M’s first game and has been ordered to speak to his teammates about lessons learned from his situation.
Again with the contradictions, not guilty but punished. We can no longer pretend that money is not a driving force for college athletics and it seems that it’s time to examine the rule book or come up with a new formula compensating it’s cash cows. Excuse me if I come off a little “aggie” no pun intended.