College football officials have tried to defend the NCAA in recent months, even publicly tossing Mark Emmert a life raft on occasion.
The Johnny Manziel inaction -- a Texas-A&M -imposed, half-game suspension after the Heisman winner reportedly signed thousands of autographs, possibly for money -- could change that.
After talking with several high-ranking college football officials, here are some common responses I got late Wednesday night on condition of anonymity.
“Hard to understand.”
“Does not feel like rules are enforced equally.”
Then there's this from an athletic director from a high-resource school: “I don't like what I see.”
Make no mistake, this was a difficult case for the NCAA because getting the parties involved to talk would always be a challenge.
But the problem some in the college football community seem to have is there was enough circumstantial evidence for the NCAA enforcement arm to take action.
So, go enforce.
Half-game? Better off with no punishment at all.
“The half game is just weird,” said another athletic director from a BCS automatic qualifying conference. “Now there's always more information on the inside than we have, but circumstantial evidence certainly seemed to apply here.”
If the NCAA needed more time to build a case, take it.
If there's no evidence Manziel took money, is his obvious negligence really worth no more than 30 minutes in an easy win?
Instead, the precedent is now set: Top players can get theirs on the side as long as they deal in cash and kill the paper trail.
Fairness is one thing. A player who reportedly signed thousands of autographs and whose sheer volume of material dominated autograph shows like a broker had never seen is far different.
The whole autograph storyline is kind of silly. Its seriousness pales in comparison to, say, academic fraud or Nevin Shapiro. The Manziel case has me a bit jaded.
But schools clearly don't want their athletes parading like Manziel did, and compliance departments can only go so far.
They wanted a slam-dunk and instead watched the NCAA get backed down in the paint.
Maybe this is the post-Miami reality of NCAA enforcement. Consider the last three high-profile rulings since the NCAA apologized for its improper investigation into Miami: Oregon lost two scholarships, Mississippi State lost two scholarships, Manziel loses a few-hundred yards.
Counter this with past rulings that are all over the map (Dez Bryant gets a year for lying about a dinner, Penn State gets hammered) and the NCAA's misdirection only amplifies.