Column: Is game's new 'it-boy' in over his head?

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 7, 2013 at 3:12 am •  Published: August 7, 2013
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Remember those commercials that ran nonstop during the Final Four last spring, the ones in which the voice-over concluded, "There are over 400,000 NCAA student-athletes — and just about all of us will be going pro in something other than sports"?

Well, here's hoping that Johnny Football beats the odds and makes it to the NFL someday. Because the kid is hopelessly amateurish at just about everything else.

The latest suggestion that college football's new "it-boy" was in over his head arrived via ESPN, with reports Johnny Manziel was essentially shaking down memorabilia dealers, swapping autographs for cash in clear violation of NCAA rules. No matter.

Considering how weak the NCAA is at the moment, and how well lawyered-up Texas A&M is already, the chances that an investigation will result in any meaningful punishment for player or school is practically nil. The Aggies hired the same firm — Lightfoot, Franklin and White, from Birmingham, Ala. — that got Panthers quarterback Cam Newton off the hook when pay-for-play allegations surfaced during his brief stay at Auburn. And who knows, those same lawyers might have put Newton in touch with Manziel for the few counseling sessions that Newton confirmed Tuesday, but declined to discuss in detail.

About all Newton would say, beyond the fact that the two talked several times, is that he hopes "that everything works out in the best for him so he can get back to what he likes to do and that's playing football."

Apparently, though, that's not the only thing Manziel likes to do. He also enjoys sharing photographs of himself mocking other rules, whether it's flashing a fistful of bills fanned out, or waving a bottle of champagne in a nightclub, even though Manziel is just 20 years old. When those pranks and others Manziel staged during an eventful offseason were raised at SEC media days last month, he said he'd learned his lesson:

"Of course, I've made my mistakes. It's time to grow up."

Don't bet on it.

He'll likely survive this latest scrape, in part because the NCAA enforcement staff has been decimated in the wake of its bungled investigation at the University of Miami, and a new, less strict penalty structure the organization rolled out barely a week ago. That much seemed apparent by how breezily Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin deflected questions about his quarterback's future.

"There's not a whole lot I can say about that," Sumlin replied, which he repeated in one form or another to every question about Manziel, including whether he ever asked the Heisman Trophy winner whether he accepted payment for autographs.