The 2013 ESPY Awards - Red Carpet

Report: NCAA investigating Manziel for accepting money for autographs


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, 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.

Was Washington loss the beginning of the end of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC?

Steve Sarkisian
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Steve Sarkisian’s win totals in his six previous seasons are both a positive and a negative.

On one hand, he resurrected a moribund Washington program that went 0-12 under Ty Willingham in 2008 and took them to four consecutive bowl games from 2010-2013. He won nine games his last year in Seattle, then led a talented-yet-thin USC team to a nine-win season and AP No. 20 finish in 2014.

Those are good accomplishments. But the flip side of the argument is Sarkisian has never won double-digit games in a season, something that’s a necessity to keep one’s job at USC. The Trojans’ 17-12 loss to Washington last night — at home, no less — means the road to 10 wins and a Pac-12 title will be awfully difficult.

And worse yet, there are plenty of arguments to be made Sarkisian doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and a little more time in Los Angeles to turn things around (#SarkAfterDark, his drunken rant at a booster event, certainly doesn’t help). The reaction from national media to last night’s loss looked like this:

Mandel, in his column, argued USC is right where it was two years ago with Lane Kiffin as its coach. And there’s this embarrassing thought, that looks more and more like a truth, for Pat Haden:

This one, however, was the most damning by far for many reasons, most notably that it came at the hands of Sarkisian’s old team. The sense among many Washington fans nearly two years ago was that the Huskies managed to upgrade coaches when the school lured Chris Petersen from Boise State upon Sarkisian’s departure to USC.

They were right.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken similarly wrote that USC needs to drop Sarkisian and bring in Chip Kelly from the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the state of USC, and it may not get better. The Trojans start a brutal three-game stretch next Saturday at Notre Dame in primetime, then welcome Utah to Los Angeles the next week. A Halloween trip to Berkeley to face Jared Goff and Cal finishes it up. There’s a very real chance USC, for all its talent and all its hype, limps into November with a 4-4 or 3-5 record.

Sarkisian will have to engineer and sustain a major turnaround in these coming weeks, otherwise he’ll give Haden all the ammo he needs to unceremoniously jettison him after two years.

Starting Navy S Kwazel Bertrand undergoes surgery, likely out for season

Kwazel Bertrand, Jacobi Owens
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Navy has seen one of its most productive players on the defensive side of the ball play for perhaps the final time this season.

Kwazel Bertrand sustained a broken ankle in the win over Air Force last Saturday, head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed earlier this week. As a result, the defensive back will very likely miss the remainder of the 2015 season.

And, because he is a senior and has no other eligibility avenues to pursue, it would effectively end his collegiate career as well.

“I feel terrible for Kwazel. It’s really unfortunate any time a senior goes down with a season-ending injury,” Niumatalolo said. “Kwazel has been a really good player for us and we’re going to miss his presence out on the field.”

Bertrand started 27 games over the past three-plus seasons, including all four in 2015.