NCAA officials are investigating whether Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, received money for signing autographs on photos and sports memorabilia in January, ESPN reported in an Outside the Lines segment that aired Sunday.
The report cited two sources that told the network Manziel agreed to sign memorabilia in exchange for a five-figure fee during his trip to attend the BCS National Championship Game in Miami. Both sources told the network they witnessed the signing but did not see an exchange of money.
If proven true, the allegation would be a violation of NCAA rules and would compromise Manziel’s eligibility status. Texas A&M players reported to campus Sunday for the start of football drills, with coach Kevin Sumlin and three players scheduled to take part in a news conference Monday in College Station. Manziel is not among the players scheduled to attend the news conference.
Jason Cook, Texas A&M’s senior associate athletics director for external affairs, released a statement Sunday night. It said: “It is Texas A&M’s longstanding practice not to respond to such questions concerning specific student-athletes.” A&M representatives offered no other comment Sunday night.
An NCAA spokeswoman, citing company policy, declined comment in the Outside the Lines report. Typically, NCAA officials do not comment on ongoing investigations.
Under NCAA rules, bylaw 126.96.36.199 prohibits students from accepting money for promoting or advertising the commercial sale of a product or service. An athlete who violates that rule could be declared ineligible.
Although Manziel, 20, has made off-field headlines for other reasons during the off-season, this is the first issue that could impact his ability to suit up for A&M this season. And losing Manziel would be a major blow to a team coming off an 11-2 season and ranked No. 6 in the coaches preseason poll.
Other than Manziel, backup Matt Joeckel from Arlington High School is the only quarterback on the A&M roster who has taken a snap in a college game. Joeckel, a junior who is the twin brother of 2012 Outland Trophy winner/NFL draftee Luke Joeckel, has completed 5 of 11 passes for 42 yards in limited duty during his college career.
Manziel, the first freshman to win a Heisman Trophy, racked up 5,116 yards of total offense and accounted for 47 touchdowns (26 passing, 21 rushing) last season.
Three sources told ESPN that Manziel signed photographs, footballs, mini-football helmets and other items at the request of Drew Tiemen, an autograph broker. Two sources said Tiemen approached Manziel on Jan. 6 after the quarterback landed at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to attend the Jan. 7 BCS championship game.
After the meeting, sources said Manziel visited Tieman’s residence and signed hundreds of items in the main room of his apartment and others witnessed the signings. Many of the items wound up on eBay. Citing a source, ESPN reported that James Garland, the NCAA’s assistant director of enforcement, contacted Tieman in June about the signings and indicated a desire at that time to talk to Manziel.
The network also reported that, on March 6, ESPN.com contacted David Batson, A&M’s compliance director, in regard to questions about Manziel-signed items on the memorabilia market. At that time, Batson issued a statement: “Johnny has indicated on numerous occasions and, once again earlier today, that he has never [and to his knowledge, his parents, other relatives and friends have ever] been compensated through cash or other benefits or promises of deferred compensation for providing his autograph.”