A half-baked suspension for Johnny Football

So I was right about Johnny Manziel getting suspended for part of the 2013 season. But I thought it would be for four or so games. I never dreamed he’d be held out for two quarters against Rice.

That’s not a suspension. That’s a reason to stay tuned for the second half.

From the NCAA’s statement on the matter, issued jointly with a hugely relieved Texas A&M: “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.”

Translation: He says he’s innocent, and our investigators are so helpless — no subpoena power, remember? — that, in the absence of any proof falling on our noggins, we’ve got nothing. So we’re calling this “an inadvertent violation” and accepting A&M’s suggested punishment, which is barely a slap on his autograph-signing wrist.

Cam Newton was ruled ineligible by Auburn for the Tuesday before the SEC Championship game and reinstated by the NCAA on Wednesday. That’s one eventual Heisman Trophy winner who was allowed to keep playing. Now the reigning Heisman holder gets a pass after an enforced absence of 30 minutes on the game clock.

Georgia’s A.J. Green missed four games at the start of the 2010 season because he admitted he sold his Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000. In hindsight, he messed up because he ’fessed up. In dealing with the NCAA, the best policy is the one Cancer Man espoused on “The X-Files” — deny everything.

Enough anonymous autograph brokers said enough things to ESPN to make the NCAA take notice of Johnny Football’s offseason traipse down Memorabilia Lane. Apparently the NCAA couldn’t persuade anyone to go on the record. So what was the “inadvertent violation” that prompted this pseudo suspension?

The joint statement says Manziel didn’t take money, at least according to Manziel. It also says A&M deemed him ineligible “due to an inadvertent violation regarding the signing of certain autographs.” Did a dime fall from someone’s coin purse into his vest pocket?

We can argue over whether it’s right for the NCAA to profit off the likenesses of student-athletes (Actually, we can’t. It’s wrong, and here’s hoping Ed O’Bannon wins his lawsuit.) Still, any violation of an existing rule, inadvertent or not, should force the NCAA’s hand. It did with Green. It did with Demaryius Thomas, to whom a reported gift of $312 in clothing cost Georgia Tech the 2009 ACC title.

Green got hammered. Tech got hammered. Manziel gets to wear a visor for a half and then go back to being Johnny Football. Oh, and he’s also required — I love this — to “address the team regarding the situation and lessons learned.”

Lessons learned? Deny everything. Works like a charm.

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