The tension in College Station, Texas, might be thicker than the humidity. Every student, alumni and fan of Texas A&M football wants the answer to a very simple question: Is Johnny Manziel going to play this season?
According to recent reports from a host of sporting outlets, Manziel sat down with an NCAA investigative committee for six hours on Sunday and denied any wrongdoing. If you’re unaware, the Heisman winner allegedly accepted a payment in exchange for signing over 4,000 autographs. This a no-no under NCAA rules.
As with any accusation, the burden of proof lies with the accuser. Because of this, Manziel, his attorney and the Texas A&M Athletic Director believe Johnny Football will be on the field for the Aggies opener on Saturday, and will play out the entire season as if nothing ever happened. In other words, if a deal was done, it sounds like it was done under the table. Quite frankly, I hope it was, and I hope he gets away with it.
Regardless, the court of public opinion has weighed in and Manziel can go ahead and slip into his villain costume. He’ll enjoy the disdain of the world’s self-righteous, who would never break NCAA rules if they were “getting their college for free.”
But the real villain in all of this is the NCAA and its antiquated, oppressive rule — heck, its very existence. For anyone who has ever put their name on a document that falls into the organization’s oversight, it’s understood you basically sign your life away as an indentured servant for however long you’re granted a scholarship. All this, because you love the sport(s) you play.
Let’s dive a little deeper.
According to NCAA rules, if you want to make a dime off your popularity — or even if your family is living in poverty — you can’t take advantage of your fame or local celebrity. The NCAA’s rules on having jobs are quite stringent. If you plan to attend classes, workouts and practices, you might have five to 10 hours to find some work on a weekend. You can make no more than $2,000 in a year.
The NCAA caps earning potential on full scholarship athletes, as well as partial scholarship students who might need to make $10,000 to $15,000 in a year to pay for school. In such a scenario, what does the NCAA suggest? You guessed it: nothing.
Bottom line, as an NCAA athlete you aren’t allowed to earn an income. You live under a set of laws that are different from those that govern the rest of the United States. It doesn’t matter whether you attend a private or state-funded school.
At the very least, we should level with these athletes before they sign on the dotted line. I can hear the lecture now.
Sure, kid, I understand you busted your butt to get to this point … that you weren’t blessed with exceptional intelligence, and your family doesn’t have the money to send you to college; however, you’re gifted on the football field. You’re a damn joy to watch. So, here’s a scholarship.
You’ll get to keep this scholarship if you work hard on the field and maintain a certain standard in the classroom. In fact, if you’re good enough on the field, someone might even consider you an asset to the university.
That being said, you’ll need to let the fans drool over your athletic prowess, help the university make millions and increase enrollment, drive tourism in the local community, allow the NCAA to pad their retirement packages as they govern your activities and last, but certainly not least, you’ll need to understand that you’ll be subjected to absurd and unfair amounts of personal criticism by media outlets, your peers and asinine fans, even though you’re only 20 years old.
Keep in mind, these people will scream at you when you mess up, telling you, ‘You suck!’ ‘You’re an idiot!’ ‘You’re a douchebag!’ ‘You should lose your scholarship!’ But remember, when you get it right, they’ll cheer for you and treat you like you’re royalty!
Do the best you can with all the confusion because your scholarship doesn’t cover counseling services. On the hardest of days, just remember: you get to go to class for free, share a dorm room with someone for free and even enjoy three meals a day from a fine selection of cafeterias.
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Now, consider a student who’s on a full academic scholarship and is so brilliant they’re offered a job “consulting” for a tech company at a cool $50,000 a year. Can they take the job? Absolutely! You could expect they’d be encouraged to do so and would be considered silly if they didn’t.
The double standard is disgusting.