College football starts again this week. I’m looking forward to it, especially as Sal 11000 Beta has expressed an interest in watching it with me. So what better way to start the season than a great big “say what now?”:
Johnny Football will start the season on the bench, but he won’t be there for long.
Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel of No. 7 Texas A&M has been suspended for the first half of Saturday’s season opener against the Rice Owls, A&M and the NCAA announced Wednesday in a joint statement.
The statement said there was no evidence that Manziel received payment for signing autographs.
The NCAA and A&M agreed on the one-half suspension because Manziel violated NCAA bylaw 126.96.36.199, an NCAA representative confirmed. The rule says student-athletes cannot permit their names or likenesses to be used for commercial purposes, including to advertise, recommend or promote sales of commercial products, or accept payment for the use of their names or likenesses.
“If additional information comes to light, the NCAA will review and consider if further action is appropriate,” the NCAA said in the joint statement. “NCAA rules are clear that student-athletes may not accept money for items they sign, and based on information provided by Manziel, that did not happen in this case.”
It appears that the NCAA had a lot of smoke, but couldn’t quite find the fire. I also suspect they are all too eager not to suspend one of their most marketable players.
But I was thinking about the more general issue — Manziel potentially making money off his NCAA image. The more I think about it, the more my thoughts crystallize around two points:
1) It is ridiculously hypocritical for the NCAA to decree that an active player can not make money off his image and name. I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea with a small group of 19-year-old superstars cashing in on their NCAA careers. But the NCAA is in a glass house on this one.
2) However, the NCAA sets the rules and players who break the rules should be punished, no matter how popular they are.
I’m against paying players in the NCAA. I’d be OK, maybe, with a small stipend. But considering that a scholarship athlete gets an extremely expensive education and considering that athletes for marquee sports get amazingly lavish treatment and facilities (on many campuses, tutoring for the athletic department is the most money a graduate student can make), I’m disinclined to embrace payment, especially not on the scale many pundits are talking.
It’s true that star athletes make a lot of money for universities and see only a small fraction of it, even including the value of their education and the training and exposure can get them pro contracts. But the thing is that the money doesn’t go into some rich alum’s pockets. It mainly goes to pay for the scholarships of the thousands of athletes who aren’t going to become professionals. If Texas A&M paid Manziel a boatload of money they’d either have to cancel the scholarships of hundreds of athletes who are interested in getting an education or pull money out of education or students’ pockets (check out this infographic about how much athletic programs drain from universities; and remember that we’re paying for this through student loans and the tax deductions for donations to athletic departments).