Standing Up To The Bully

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel warms up during NCAA college football practice in College Station, Texas | AP photo

After months of speculation about the final disposition of the Johnny Manziel situation, and being reminded of all the penalties handed down by the NCAA in the past, it was a shock that the sanction for Manziel was a half-game suspension. Dez Bryant got all but three games of the 2009 season for lying about something that wasn’t even against the rules, and former Georgia wide out A.J.Green was benched for four games for selling a bowl jersey for $1,000 in 2010.

By contrast, Manziel’s punishment doesn’t even add up to a nasty look.

The NCAA apparently couldn’t find evidence that Manziel took money for signing autographs, and settles with Texas A&M on the half game by citing that Manziel had violated “the spirit of the rule,” a bylaw that prohibits an athlete from allowing another person to profit from his likeness.

Once again, the NCAA has proven that it will run roughshod over anyone who either admits wrong-doing, has damning evidence available or doesn’t have the resources to fight back. The Manziels denied that Johnny took money, there was no evidence, and they were willing to battle the NCAA.

While Dez Bryant and A.J Green may be angry, the people who really have a gripe is anybody at Penn State not involved in the Jerry Sandusky fiasco, which is all but five people at State College. Had the Penn State interim president had some backbone and not signed an agreement not to challenge whatever sanctions the NCAA came up with, Penn Sate would likely be in a far better place right now. The correct response would have been to inform the NCAA that Penn State viewed the situation as a serious criminal matter well beyond the purview of the NCAA, tell them the university would seek injunctive relief from any and all sanctions, and would see them in court. Because, at the end of the day, the NCAA is just a bully and backs off when aggressively challenged.

I’m not at all convinced that Johnny Football doesn’t somewhere have a suitcase full of cash, but I admire how the Manziels and Texas A&M stood up to the bully.

* Not much doubt that Norm Chow has a bone to pick with the schedule maker. Back-to-back Top 25 opponents to open the season is hardly ideal for a rebuilding team, and you could make the case that Oregon State in Corvallis is considerably tougher than USC at home. The Mountain West openers featuring Nevada in Reno and preseason favorite Fresno State at home also are difficult, but you can’t control the conference schedule. The first two were UH’s doing. The good news is that it will get easier after the first four games, so the team and its fans will have to show some patience. There are some very good young players on this team, and they have to be given the chance to develop. Some of the growing pains they’ll experience this year will have a handsome payoff in the future.