For now, Texas A&M has time on its side regarding potential NCAA violations by Johnny Manziel.
The Heisman-winning quarterback can practice this month leading up to the Aggies' Aug. 31 opener against Rice even with the specter of violations hanging over him and his program. However, there would have to be a decision made if a possible case regarding NCAA violations hasn't been resolved by the opener.
"Even if he's guilty of a violation he's still eligible to practice," said John Infante, who writes the Bylaw Blog for athleticscholarships.net. "There's no reason [to hold him out] at the moment. The only season you would declare him ineligible at the moment, is that you are getting ready to submit reinstatement request [to the NCAA]."
ESPN.com reported Sunday that the NCAA was investigating whether Manziel had received a five-figure compensation from a broker for signing autographs and memorabilia. Protocol dictates that -- if the case isn't resolved by the opener -- A&M would rule Manziel ineligible to avoid being penalized by the NCAA. The school would then apply for reinstatement pending some sort of resolution.
If Manziel plays and is later found to have committed violations, Texas A&M would have to forfeit or vacate victories in which he played. NCAA rules loosely state that any player who is found to have accepted more than $1,000 in extra benefits would have to sit out 30 percent of the season. However, there are mitigating factors in assessment of games missed.
"It's really a starting point," Infante said. "From there, the school makes an argument whether it should be in line with guidelines [regarding games lost]. The NCAA staff will then make a decision which could be more than what the school proposes."
Asked if he would play Manziel with the season approaching, Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said Monday, "There's a lot of people involved in that decision. I'm not going to speculate what can happen and what will happen."
Sumlin added that Manziel will continue to get the same amount of reps in practice.
If found guilty, Manziel would have violated Bylaw 16, a wide-ranging rule that deals with extra benefits. Players are also required to sign a document at the beginning of each academic year that asks if they are not aware of any NCAA violations.
"If he lied to the NCAA, he's done," said a school compliance officer familiar with major NCAA investigations. "He's done for at least a year."
The compliance officer added: "Right now if it's somebody coming forward and saying, 'He did this,' Manziel can continue to practice. Until they find evidence that says he actually took money, it's kind of like Cam Newton all over again. You let they play, you let them play, until there comes a point that the NCAA or school has information.”
Typically in such cases that occur during a season, a school rules a player ineligible to avoid further NCAA sanctions if there is wrongdoing. The school then submits a request to the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee with possible self-imposed sanctions if there is a violation. Those sanctions might include a player paying back the value of those extra benefits.
But that's a strategy usually employed during the season and/or if there is an admission of wrongdoing. Auburn ruled Newton ineligible the week of the 2010 SEC title game, then immediately was able to reinstate him. Newton's father was later found to at least solicited a $180,000 from Mississippi State.
Georgia's A.J. Green admitted to getting $1,000 for an Independence Bowl jersey and was suspended for the first four games of the season. Other cases involving both academic and NCAA rules questions have caused basketball players multiple games just while the investigations are going on.
The NCAA used a little known principle in allowing suspended Ohio State players to participate in the 2011 Sugar Bowl. The so-called "Buckeye Five" were suspended for five games for selling their equipment and memorabilia for profit. The principle, though, had to do only with championships and postseason games.
The current Manziel situation is almost unprecedented with a defending Heisman Trophy winner four weeks away from the regular season. If the case drags on, A&M seemingly is soon going to have to make some tough decisions regarding its best player.
"If I'm Texas A&M right now, I let him practice, do my due diligence and hope he's telling the truth," the compliance officer said. "If there's any ounce of him taking money, there's no point in playing him."
The story seems to be getting more complicated by the minute. A second person has come forward telling ESPN.com that a personal assistant told a broker last season that Manziel would no longer be signing autographs without compensation.
A&M fans are no doubt beginning to wonder who their quarterback is going to be Sept. 14 when No. 1 Alabama comes to town.
“We're playing Alabama in the biggest football game of the century,' is not the type of unique experience the NCAA is going to grant relief on,” Infante said.