Unlike other incidents, Manziel’s potential NCAA issue actually affects his future

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Johnny Manziel, as far as any of us know right now, may or may not have signed a hell of a lot of memorabilia in exchange for money.

If he didn’t — Manziel has apparently relayed as much, and on numerous occasions, to Texas A&M before — then this will turn into another story that appears to vilify the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, whose exposure has exploded to phenomenal heights over the past several months.

If he did and he’s caught, then his eligibility for part or all of the 2013 season would come into serious question. All for doing what he should be allowed to do no matter how well-off he and his family are: profit off his name and signature.

Plenty of other people are allowed to profit off Manziel’s talent and hard work. When an A&M fan purchases a No. 2 jersey, they’re choosing Manziel over any other number available because of what he’s done. Whichever company made that jersey sees the revenue, while Manziel doesn’t see a dime. When EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Company work together to create a Texas A&M quarterback who’s six feet tall, 200 pounds and rates among the best players in the country for their video game franchise, they eventually profit off a replicated, digital Manziel. When a television company broadcasts an A&M game, they’ll profit off the excitement that Manziel brings to a football field.

Even a random Joe Fan tried to profit off Manziel’s “Johnny Football” persona before Manziel’s LLC, JMAN2 Enterprises, stepped in earlier this year.

It’s a horrific model, and if the Ed O’Bannon plaintiffs get their way, active student-athlete in men’s basketball and football will one day be allowed to receive a cut every time someone else uses their name, image or likeness.

But, as of right now, NCAA rules dictate that an athlete can’t receive extra benefits or profit off their name. And I’m certain Manziel’s well aware of those rules.

So if the NCAA exercises its resources and finds Manziel was paid in exchange for signing some pictures or helmets, well, he has to accept not only whatever inevitable suspension he’ll receive, but own that he knowingly broke the rules no matter how asinine they are. Don’t think it’s a slam dunk that Manziel could cheat the system and work through his parents or friends, either. Although parents don’t have to cooperate with the NCAA like Manziel does as a current student-athlete, if the NCAA finds that Manziel’s parents or a friend received benefits on his behalf, the NCAA could enforce the Cam Newton rule, which expands the circle of who’s responsible in such an instance.

Manziel is, by all accounts, an engaging and likable guy. But he doesn’t cater to anyone’s standards, and he doesn’t apologize for it. Those are qualities that actually make Manziel fun to follow and, from a personal standpoint, easy to root for. It’s also what gets him in trouble from time to time. Most of that trouble is harmless and has no direct influence on how he interacts with his teammates and coaches or prepares for a game. But accepting money for autographs would be an obviously different situation.

Where a suspension for doing so could hurt Manziel the most is his future in the NFL. Pro clubs don’t necessarily care that Manziel (allegedly) profited from his name, just like they don’t care that he vents over Twitter about a parking ticket or gets kicked out of a frat party. Rather, they care about how he improves his game and his potential value to the organization.

The primary knocks on Manziel are his size and the fact that he’s only played one year in college. There’s plenty of intrigue about Manziel as a pro prospect, but simply put, there just aren’t a lot of reps of him to scout. If Manziel misses a considerable amount of time in 2013, and there aren’t many people lately who feel Manziel plans on staying in College Station past that point, then he hasn’t done much to help his draft stock. In that case, he may have to come back for 2014.

It would be an ironic result for a player whose identity is so awesomely anti-NCAA.

Father of former Florida State WR Travis Rudolph killed in accidental shooting

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The father of Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph was killed Friday in an accidental shooting, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Monday.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Darryl Rudolph was working on repairs inside a West Palm Beach, Fla., when a gun accidentally fired in an adjacent room, hitting him in the back/neck area. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 55 years old.

The younger Rudolph was Florida State’s leading receiver over the past two seasons before becoming an early-entrant into this week’s NFL Draft. He gained viral notoriety after a photo snapped of him sitting at lunch with an autistic elementary school student hit Facebook.

“When I used to coach and help other kids with football, basketball and sports, Travis was small but he used to pay attention to what I was doing,” the elder Rudolph said in an interview with ESPN last year. “I told them get your education. You can be the best athlete in the world, but without an education, you’re not going very far. That’s what Travis followed through on.”

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.

Willie Taggart defends Oregon’s offseason workouts in interview

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Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.

Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.

“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.

Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.

Ohio State claims 2017 national championship… for spring game attendance

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For the third consecutive year, Ohio State is your national champion in the all-important category that is spring game attendance. The Buckeyes once again had the largest attendance for its spring game this month despite stadium renovations cutting out 20,000 seats from Ohio Stadium. After a weekend that saw Alabama and Penn State prove to be the final hurdles necessary to clear, the Buckeyes can once again boast about having the highest attendance this spring, for whatever that is worth.

Alabama (73,426), Penn State (71,000) and Georgia (66,133) made their final push to round-out the top five spring crowds this year over the weekend. The only power conference programs remaining on the spring game schedule are Arkansas, Oregon, Virginia, and UCLA this coming weekend. If you took the combined spring attendance of each of those schools, they would collectively fall shy of Ohio State’s spring crowd total for this season.

Spring Game Attendance Top 10 for 2017 (as of 4/24/2017)

  1. Ohio State – 80,134
  2. Nebraska – 78,312
  3. Alabama – 74,326
  4. Penn State – 71,000
  5. Georgia – 66,133
  6. Clemson – 60,000
  7. Michigan – 57,418
  8. Florida – 48,000
  9. Auburn – 46,331
  10. Oklahoma – 43,723

How valuable the attendance figures for the spring game varies from fanbase to fanbase, and even within each fanbase there is a wide range of opinion on what the significance of the spring game attendance really is. It does help inject some reason to be enthusiastic about the program on the recruiting trail, but it ultimately is open to interpretation just like so many other recruiting tools. Remember, the majority of schools out there hardly make an effort to promote their spring game and make it an event fans look forward to. There may be no conference that demonstrates the wide range of affection for the spring game than the Big Ten.

The Big Ten is led by Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and, recently, Michigan when it comes to spring game crowds, but then there is the curious case of Wisconsin. The Badgers have a loyal following, but have not cracked the 10,000-fan mark since 2014, when I began tracking spring game attendance figures. Northwestern has never even kept track of its spring scrimmage numbers, and neither has Indiana for the past three years.

You can check the updated spring game attendance numbers and sort them by conference HERE.