Tuesday, September 17, 2013

NCAA Issues Half-Game Penalty To Heisman Winner For Bylaw Violation

Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel has been suspended for the first half of Texas A&M University’s season opening game for an ‘inadvertent’ violation of the rules of the United States’ National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA). The NCAA and Texas A&M announced that Manziel would receive the minor penalty because there is no evidence that Manziel received money in exchange for signing autographs, based on currently available information and statements made by Manziel to NCAA investigators.

Texas A&M suggested the penalty to the NCAA because it believed that Manziel had only committed an inadvertent violation of NCAA bylaw 12.5.2.1 by his signing of certain autographs. The bylaw specifically prohibits student-athletes from permitting the use of their names or likenesses to be used for commercial purposes, including to advertise, recommend or promote sales of commercial products, or to accept payment for the use of their names or likenesses. Although the NCAA accepted the proposed penalty, it specifically reserved the right to consider further action against Manziel pursuant to this bylaw if ‘additional information comes to light’.

In addition to its decision to declare Manziel ineligible and recommend the half game penalty to the NCAA, Texas A&M suggested the following additional conditions before Manziel could be reinstated by the NCAA:

• Manziel will address the team regarding the autograph situation and the lessons he has learned;

• Texas A&M will revise its future education programs to include information concerning student-athlete signing autographs for individuals with multiple items.

“Student-athletes are often asked for autographs from fans, but unfortunately, some individuals’ sole motivation in seeking an autograph is for resale”, said NCAA Vice President of Academic and Membership Affairs Kevin Lennon. “It is important that schools are cognizant and educate student-athletes about situations in which there is a strong likelihood that the autograph seeker plans to resell the items”.

Manziel has been the center of attention during pre-season practice since it was reported that he had allegedly been paid a ‘five figure flat fee’ by a Florida sports memorabilia dealer for signing autographs while he attended the 2013 BCS National Championship game. With daily speculation questioning the potential penalty Manziel might receive, the NCAA agreed to the proposed minor penalty following a lengthy interview session with Manziel.

The NCAA stated, ‘NCAA rules are clear that student-athletes may not accept money for items they sign, and based upon the information provided by Manziel, that did not happen in this case’.

Based on the information submitted by the University, the NCAA accepted the conditions as put forward by Texas A&M. “I am proud of the way both Coach (Kevin) Sumlin and Johnny (Manziel)  handled this situation, with integrity and honesty”, said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp. “We all take the Aggie Code of Honor very seriously and there is no evidence that either the university or Johnny violated that code”.

Gregg Clifton
Attorney
Jackson Lewis LLP, Phoenix AZ
gregg.clifton@jacksonlewis.com

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