College Football Insider

With a week to go, will Johnny Manziel play for A&M?

With Texas A&M seven days from the season opener, there's been little to suggest Johnny Manziel will be out of the lineup Saturday against Rice.

An industry source briefed late last week by a high-ranking A&M official on the NCAA investigation into Manziel's eligibility says the school had “no plans” to sit the Heisman-winning quarterback because of its confidence in the case.

The NCAA is looking into whether Manziel received money in exchange for his autograph, as first reported by ESPN.

A&M hasn't reduced Manziel's practice reps, hasn't readied another quarterback as if it were preparing to lose Manziel and the coaching staff hadn't been notified on Manziel's status as of Friday, though the last part is not uncommon in an NCAA probe.

A&M compliance director David Batson declined comment when reached Friday.

When asked earlier in the week about whether Manziel has interviewed with the NCAA, senior associate athletic director of external affairs Jason Cook said, “Texas A&M will not address such questions regarding specific student-athletes."

That hasn't stopped A&M Chancellor Jon Sharp from publicly supporting Manziel.

“I know he's innocent,” Sharp told local station KBTX.

Jim Darnell, Manziel's family attorney, told CBSSports.com Friday the family is “tired of all of this” but that Manziel has been “playing football and doing what he's supposed to do.”

Darnell said two weeks ago he expects Manziel to be on the field to start the season.

Darnell said he believes Nate Fitch, Manziel's friend/personal assistant who, according to ESPN, attended several of Manziel's organized signings, has hired legal representation.

But Fitch is under no obligation to help the NCAA, as is the case for the autograph brokers who reportedly worked with Manziel. The longer this case goes without a proverbial smoking gun (hard evidence, or even circumstantial evidence), the less likely Manziel is to sit.

But Manziel still has to interview with the NCAA if it requests it, and bylaw 10.1 specifies he must tell the truth.

If A&M doesn't act proactively on the Manziel case and the NCAA later builds a case to prove he took money, A&M could face potential sanctions such as probation or vacated victories in which Manziel participated.

The elephant in the 12thMan's room is the Alabama game on Sept. 14 and whether Manziel will suit up for it.

If Manziel isn't punished, the NCAA could be setting a precedent that high-profile athletes around the country can get away with pay-for-sign.

But Virginia Tech compliance director Tim Parker said he already has an example of the dangers of accepting cash for memorabilia that resonates with players.

That would be Ohio State's tattoo-exchange-for-money scandal that took the eligibility of Terrelle Pryor and four other players and cost Jim Tressel his job.

“Once they see some of their fellow players having to repay money and sit out games, that's when it really brings it home,” Parker said.


Jeremy Fowler is a national college football insider with CBSSports.com. Fowler joined CBS in 2012 after covering the Minnesota Vikings for the St. Paul Pioneer Press for two seasons and covering the Florida Gators for the Orlando Sentinel for two years. Fowler is also a contributor to the CBS Sports Network.
 
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