Shortly after Johnny Manziel won the Heisman, Texas A&M AD Eric Hyman convened a Johnny Football summit in his office. Everyone who mattered was there -- Manziel's parents, compliance, coaches, marketing, SIDs, even the celebu-quarterback himself.
The tone from the head of the athletic department: Everything has changed. Here's how we're going to handle it.
The 62-year-old Hyman knows a little bit about handling hype. The man who hired game-changer Gary Patterson at TCU, inherited Steve Spurrier at South Carolina and was run over by two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin as a North Carolina defender, was going to set the ground rules. Hyman went so far as to consult with Florida external relations guy Mike Hill, who helped oversee the Tim Tebow phenomenon.
Hyman at least attempted to get out in front of the Johnny Football parade before it ran over him and his department.
"The meeting that Eric Hyman had wasn't a get-after-you, tell-you-what-to-do meeting [for Manziel]," Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin told me earlier this year. "[It was] 'We're here for you. You don't have to handle this on your own.' "
We now know in one, long tortuous offseason that Manziel has spit on those who have tried to help him. Advice has been discarded like a linebacker trying to wrap up. When news broke Sunday that Manziel may have taken money for signing autographs and memorabilia, it was a reminder of how far the parade had veered off the prescribed route.
Not only is Manziel's eligibility in jeopardy ... well, everything has changed. Just don't blame A&M -- its coaches, administrators, lawyers and publicists. If it wasn't already, Texas A&M football has been shaken to its foundation. The Aggies' SEC and national championships hopes have to be put on hold. At least for the four weeks between now and the beginning of the season.
If A&M and the NCAA can't clear this thing up by then, the school might have no other choice than to suspend the kid pending resolution of the case. And the closer that suspension gets to the Alabama game Sept. 14, the closer the Aggies' season comes to going pfffft!
"Depending on the level of cooperation," John Infante, who writes the Bylaw Blog for AthleticScholarships.net, said, "Three weeks is plenty of time to find out what happened.”
You would hope, or do you? That's the problem. It's clear the Aggies can't win without him in the game, but they can't seem to win with him around. Manziel's own father told ESPN.com, "Yeah, it could all come unraveled. And when it does, it's gonna be bad. Real bad."
The kid's best quality is to compartmentalize his off-field persona when it comes time to kick butt on the field. It is off that field where there seems to be no impulse he has refused in his short life. It doesn't matter if Twitter, TMZ and Instagram hadn't been invented to chronicle Manziel's exploits. In any era, the kid would have been easy to characterize as the spoiled, impetuous, manipulative offspring of well-to-do parents.
Based on Sunday's events we're about three-quarters of the way toward "real bad."
What's left is incredible irony. That long-ago encounter allowed Hyman to seek Griffin's advice and ask: What's the toughest thing about fame?
"He said, 'Learning how to say no,' " Hyman told me. "To this day, Archie is being asked for his autograph."
Yeah, but Griffin is a pillar of the community, the head of Ohio State's alumni organization. Johnny Football is embarrassing himself, his family and his school. For as long as he is able to be in school. It's hard to believe they are both in the same Heisman fraternity.
Hyman's nephew called fraud on his uncle shortly after the Heisman. The kid cheekily complained about a Heisman poster produced by the school. The quarterback's signature was included on the poster but -- as noticed by the nephew -- it was a printed facsimile.
"I had to get another poster and have Johnny sign it," Hyman said. "Now I'm his favorite uncle."
We're assuming the nephew didn't have to pay for the autograph. Sunday told us we have to ask that question of Johnny every time he signs from here on -- if he signs anything as a collegian from here on.
It's hard to determine at this moment if Hyman was more prophetic or proactive in calling that summit. Sunday might have been that breaking point. Oh, this thing might be nothing by the time A&M's media day kicks off tomorrow. In three weeks, it might be something ugly and real. But somewhere, secretly the Aggies brass has to be praying for the end of the Manziel era while hoping at the same time for the championships he could bring in what has to be his final season.
Please, just don't blame Hyman and A&M. They gave a scholarship to a talent hundreds of other schools would have invested in. It was Sumlin who went to bat for Manziel, helping keep him from being suspended for a year. It was Sumlin who sheltered his quarterback from the media until November in what looks like, in retrospect, to be a master stroke.
There were lawyers who wrote cease and desist letters on his behalf after sleazeballs began profiting off of his celebrity.
'“This is uncharted territory for an amateur athlete," Jason Cook, Texas A&M's vice president for marketing and communication, told me in December.
The kid was aided by that team of lawyers, administrators, counselors and coaches. Hyman was on top of it after the circus that was coming to town began to show itself at the Heisman ceremony. Remember how the school let Johnny take online classes?
"From football player making headlines to being on TMZ to being a celebrity," Manziel said in March.
That day, the quarterback also told a couple of reporters he had vowed to stay off Twitter. That was five months ago. How did that work out?
"What I told his dad and mom at the Heisman [ceremony] is, 'He's no longer a freshman, he's no longer a sophomore, he's no longer a junior, no longer a senior,'" Hyman said. "'He's a Heisman.' From where he is today to where he was a few months ago, he's learned how to handle situations."
Yes, Hyman was on top of it -- until he wasn't. Just don't blame the AD or his staff or the school. They were not the enablers. They are one of many victims.