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NCAA’s latest joke is Manziel’s suspension

Did you expect anything different?

The NCAA handed down its verdict on the Johnny Manziel autograph controversy this past week, declaring him suspended for the first half of Texas A&M’s game against Rice.

The NCAA found that Manziel violated bylaw 12.5.2.2, which states that a student-athlete or the school he/she is attending must take steps to prevent the use of the student-athlete’s name or likeness being used for commercial purposes.

It was the latest in a long list of slaps on the wrist the NCAA has handed down in recent times, and folks like A.J. Green, Dez Bryant or Ohio State’s infamous “Tattoo 5” have to be wondering why they were victims of the NCAA’s selective enforcement mantra. Is it because those players’ families, unlike Manziel’s, didn’t have the financial means to “lawyer up” and fight the NCAA if it chose to pursue a more serious punishment?

The NCAA decided that Manziel knowingly signed autographs that would be used for commercialized purposes, hence the suspension. So it’s established that he signed autographs. According to an ESPN report, those autographs numbered in the thousands. Forgive me if I don’t believe for a second that Manziel signed thousands of autographs and received no financial compensation.

But the NCAA apparently believes just that, as evidenced by this statement after the suspension was announced: “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.”

Huh, you don’t say? Information “provided by Manziel” showed that Manziel didn’t accept any money for those autographs? That’s some excellent detective work, NCAA. But then, what’s to be expected of an organization that was essentially handed Miami’s head on a silver platter and still hasn’t been able to drop the hammer on the Hurricanes’ program?

What I find incredibly ironic in this whole ordeal is that Manziel was suspended because he didn’t actively try to stop the selling of his autographs for profit. If this offseason has shown us anything, it’s that the reigning Heisman Trophy winner has the self awareness of a bank robber walking past policemen with a money bag in hand. Do you think he cared about any potential consequences as he was signing these autographs? And do we really think this joke of a punishment is going to act as an effective deterrent for him — or others?

Some have argued that the NCAA should do away with the rule that athletes can’t profit off their name or likeness. Such an argument has its merits, but consider this: We already know college football has a booster problem. These boosters with lots of money just love “helping their school out” by providing top-tier student-athletes with extra benefits.

If we allow student-athletes to profit off their name or likeness, what’s to stop these boosters from handing out $1,000 per autograph? That’s a Pandora’s Box that I’d rather stay closed.

Manziel is an incredible athlete, and I doubt any of these distractions will affect his on-the-field performance. I expect another dominating season for the Aggies’ starting quarterback. But here the NCAA had the chance to teach him a needed lesson — being a star athlete is about more than just big numbers and big games. As has become the norm, it failed miserably.