ESPN’s report that Johnny Manziel may have received tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for signing autographs has enough details to be concerning, but not enough to be an open and shut case. Multiple sources who claim to know of a arrangement say it happened, but not Drew Tieman, the autograph broker himself. If all the NCAA has is the information reported by Darren Rovell and Justine Gubar, the enforcement staff has a lot of work to do, otherwise this looks like Cam Newton all over again: high profile athlete, salacious allegations, never able to pin down the worst of it.
But there is another factor that raises the likelihood of the NCAA finding the fire which is producing all this smoke. As a current student-athlete Manziel is obliged to cooperate with any NCAA investigation. And, as we saw with the Cam Newton and Renardo Sidney investigations, families are not off limits either. An athlete’s bank statements are useful in an investigation. But an athlete and his family’s bank statements when trying to piece together the possible receipt of a vaguely defined amount of money? That’s gold.
The fact this story broke on August 4th and not September 4th hopefully makes it more likely that Texas A&M and the NCAA get to the bottom of this. With the season four weeks away, there is a deadline here (although plenty of past cases show how flexible that deadline can be) but not the sort of pressure faced to make a decision as in the Cam Newton case.