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

37 Comments

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.

Michael Oher: Hugh Freeze is ‘man of God, man full of integrity’

Associated Press
1 Comment

Hugh Freeze may have been blindsided by his unceremonious exit from Ole Miss, but at least one of his former players has his back.

Homeless for stretches of his teenage life, Michael Oher was taken in by the Freeze family — a 2014 Bleacher Report article notes that “Oher spent one to two nights a week at their house” — while Freeze was the head coach at Briarcrest Christian High School in Memphis.  Oher went on to play football for Freeze in high school, with his compelling life story forming the basis for the Academy Award-winning film “The Blind Side.”

The player and the coach have formed a deep bond that stretches back more than a decade, a bond that hasn’t been broken despite the latter’s resignation as Ole Miss head coach under a cloud of controversy.

“He is a man of God and a man full of integrity,’’ Oher told USA Today Sports of his former coach. “I don’t know the full story but I’m willing to bet that everyone in the world had made a mistake that they have wanted someone to forgive them for.”

The offensive lineman added that without Freeze, “there is no Michael Oher and no “The Blind Side.'”

The news dropped last Thursday night that Freeze’s tenure as the head coach at Ole Miss had come to an end because of at least one call from his university-issued cell phone to a known escort service.  While Freeze blamed the call on a misdial, the administration found a “pattern of misconduct” during a deep dive into his phone records, leading the school to confront the coach about the situation.

After meetings with Freeze Wednesday night and then again Thursday morning, it became apparent that, if he didn’t resign, the school was going to fire him.  Because of a moral turpitude clause in his contract, there was neither a buyout nor a settlement.

“God is good, even in difficult times,’’ Freeze said earlier this week in his first public comments since his departure. “Wonderful wife and family, and that’s my priority.”

“I got some good friends,” he added.

On the same day Freeze resigned, coincidentally, Oher was cut by the Carolina Panthers.  Earlier this offseason, Oher was arrested after an altercation with an Uber driver in which the player allegedly bit the driver on the back.

LSU still can’t say Arden Key will be available for opener vs. BYU

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Magical Mystery Tour that has been Arden Key‘s offseason continues.

In mid-February, LSU announced that Key had “decided to take some time away from football… for personal reasons.” Four months later, the football program announced the defensive end had rejoined the team; at the same time, it was announced that Key had recently undergone shoulder surgery.

Thursday, first-year head coach Ed Orgeron indicated that Key will not be available for the start of summer camp because of the ongoing rehab — and couldn’t commit to the player being available for the opener as well.

“We don’t know when he’s going to be ready, but obviously we expect him to play this year and have a great year. We won’t know (his playing status) until the end of camp,” Orgeron said according to the Baton Rouge Advocate. “I’m going to listen to the doctors. Some days he’s able to get into uniform and practice, he’s going to do that, but I don’t see that happening in the next couple of weeks.”

When it comes to playing against BYU Sept. 2 in Houston? “There is a chance,” Orgeron allowed.

A four-star 2015 signee, Key was a consensus Freshman All-American his first season with the Tigers after starting nine games.  Last season as a true sophomore, he led the team with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks.  The latter total set a school record.

Following that breakout campaign, he was named second-team All-SEC.

Clemson transfer Scott Pagano progressing from foot surgery, but might miss Oregon’s opener

Getty Images
Leave a comment

There was good news and potentially not-so-good news on the Scott Pagano front Thursday for Oregon.

A transfer from Clemson this offseason, Pagano suffered a broken bone in his foot in the Tigers’ mid-November win over Pitt that forced him to miss the remainder of the regular season.  After moving on to the Ducks as a graduate transfer in mid-April, UO’s medical staff decided he needed to undergo surgery to repair the damage in his foot.

First-year head coach Willie Taggart Thursday declared the defensive lineman ahead of schedule in his recovery from the medical procedure, but didn’t guarantee he’d be on the field for the 2017 opener.

“Something he had that he needed to be corrected,” Taggart said of the surgery according to oregonlive.com. “He’s ahead of schedule right now. I don’t like putting certain weeks on guys because everybody heals differently.

“He’s one of those kids that has been rehabbing his tail off and is itching to get back out there. He’s ahead of schedule right now. Hopefully he’s there for the Southern Utah game.”

Coming out of high school in Hawaii as a four-star 2013 recruit, Pagano was rated as the No. 24 tackle in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state. He started 13 games the past two seasons, four of which came in 2016.

Before opting for UO, Pagano had taken an official visit to Oklahoma as he had whittled his to-do list down to those two. Arkansas, Notre Dame and Texas were also among the lineman’s five allotted official visits in his second round of collegiate recruiting.

CB Ryan Mayes no longer part of Miami football team

Getty Images
1 Comment

There’s been a slight tweak to Miami’s defensive secondary ahead of the start of summer camp.

In a press release that consisted all of two sentences, the Hurricanes announced that Ryan Mayes is no longer a member of Mark Richt’s football program.  No reason was given for the separation, nor is it known whether the move was voluntary or involuntary.

A three-star member of The U’s 2014 recruiting class, Mayes was rated as the No. 48 cornerback in the country and the No. 92 player at any position in the state of Florida.  He held offers from, among others, Boston College and Syracuse.

As a true freshman, Mayes played in three games, then saw action in just one game the following season as he took a redshirt.  In 2016, the defensive back played in 11 games, mainly on special teams.

Prior to his departure, the redshirt junior was expected to fill a reserve role in the Hurricanes’ secondary.