It’s been a whole seven days since Johnny Manziel was in the headlines for doing Johnny Manziel things — almost all of which have been generally harmless.
A story released by “Outside the Lines” on Sunday, however, has shed light on another topic that could absolutely affect Manziel’s eligibility for part, or potentially all, of the 2013 season. OTL reports that the NCAA is investigating if Manziel, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, was paid a “five-figure flat fee” for signing “hundreds of autographs on photos and sports memorabilia in January” when he went to Miami for the BCS championship game.
From the report:
Three sources said Manziel signed photographs, footballs, mini football helmets and other items at the request of an autograph broker named Drew Tieman. Two sources, who are aware of the signing arrangement, told “Outside the Lines” that Tieman approached Manziel on Jan. 6 when he landed at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to attend the game between Alabama and Notre Dame the next day.
After that meeting, three sources said, Manziel, accompanied by his friend and personal assistant Nathan Fitch, visited Tieman’s residence and signed hundreds of items in the main room of the apartment despite the fact that there were many people in the room. Before Manziel left South Florida, after taking in the title game, he signed hundreds of autographs more, one source said.
The two sources ESPN used said they witnessed the signing, but not the alleged exchange of money.
The report, which comes less than a week after ESPN published a piece from Wright Thompson profiling Manziel that made no mention of the Texas A&M quarterback receiving money for autographs, goes on to say that the NCAA contacted Tieman in June about the signings. Tieman, the NCAA, and Manziel did not return calls and texts for the story. Texas A&M refused to comment.
It’s not the first time Manziel’s signature has come into question with ESPN. The WWL contacted A&M in March “to address a slew of Manziel signed items that had flooded the memorabilia market.” A&M responded that Manziel had stated numerous times that he had not profited off of his autograph.
So Manziel is quite likely aware of NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199, which prohibits athletes from accepting money for promoting or advertising the commercial sale of a product or service. The topic of whether Manziel should or shouldn’t be allowed to profit off of his signature (he should) is another conversation; the fact of the matter is NCAA bylaws don’t allow that — though the Association could use its own rules to open up Manziel’s bank statements to see if he did.
And if the NCAA finds something fishy, it could be the one off-the-field story that actually derails Manziel’s 2013 season in some form or fashion.