Everyone should have assumed that the Johnny Manziel case was going to end with an unsatisfactory whimper rather than a bang. Too many holes to fill plus an increasingly controversial rule meant the odds of widespread agreement with whatever the NCAA decided was unlikely. But just how dissatisfied we should be rests on parsing this paragraph from George Schroeder correctly:
A&M declared Manziel ineligible Wednesday. In addition to the half-game suspension, in order to be reinstated he must address the team regarding lessons learned. Texas A&M will revise its educational process regarding signing autographs for individuals with multiple items. The NCAA accepted those conditions, the school said, based on currently available information and Manziel’s testimony in an interview with investigators.
If Texas A&M proposed the half-game suspension, then so be it. Given the characterization of this as an inadvertent violation that involved no money changing hands, Manziel should be reinstated without suspension. But the NCAA rarely reduces an institution’s self-imposed conditions or penalties (the staff and/or committee may not even have that power). The student-athlete reinstatement staff will sometimes note this though, with language in the secondary violation report that says something like this:
The staff notes that the corrective action imposed by the institution exceeds what the staff would have imposed.
But if a half-game suspension was at all the NCAA staff’s idea, that is ridiculous. The NCAA deals in whole numbers. Positive integers and zero. Playing in one second of a game equals playing in a whole game (in fact a whole season). 30% of a season for medical hardship waivers is rounded up to a whole number. If a penalty is for 10% of the season and that equals 1.2 games, the penalty is rounded up or down depending on other factors.
The NCAA should not deal in fractions of contests. Suspensions of one half, one quarter, one series, or “not starting” should be left to coaches and schools for internal discipline. If Texas A&M wants to suspend Manziel for a half, that is their prerogative. But to the greatest extent possible, the NCAA should not be a party to it.