Of course Johnny Football is going to play Saturday against Rice.
Why wouldn't he?
He's being investigated by the NCAA, not NCIS. Cam Newton got away from those gumshoes with more than enough time to cram in an eventful final season at Auburn. So did Terrelle Pryor, even after his coach at the time, Ohio State's Jim Tressell, knew he'd broken plenty of rules. And look how both of those distinguished alumni turned out: making real money in the NFL, instead of the chump change their former classmates with degrees have to settle for now.
Besides, Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp has already cleared Manziel. That was in an email he sent around to friends of the program last week — before admitting he never spoke to Manziel about allegations that he'd exchanged autographs for cash.
"Don't have to. I don't have to hear from him," Sharp breezily told a local TV station in College Station that asked about the email.
Right. Because who bothers with hard evidence when half-cocked intuition will do?
"I don't have to hear from him," Sharp repeated for emphasis. "I can hear from his original accusers and what they're saying now."
Whether or not the NCAA consulted those original accusers, they had enough questions to grill Manziel for six hours during a Sunday meeting. According to CBSSports.com, Manziel denied ever asking for, or receiving, any cash.
I suppose someone with faith in the wholesome enterprise that is big-time college sports could sign 4,400 footballs, photos, mini-helmets and whatever else you can find for sale on e-bay over the span of a month and convince themselves they were all headed for kids or charities. It was possible to believe that about Tim Tebow, for instance, when he was at Florida. But not Johnny Football.
One glance at a profile of Manziel in ESPN The Magazine reveals a kid on the verge of turning 21 who is much more interested in the luxe life than campus life. It's not the money he's after, per se, since Manziel grew up in a family that always had plenty. He loves the celebrity that comes with being a college star, but chafes at the restraints.
Even so, it's hard not to root for Manziel and against the NCAA, if only because everyone else in the game is already on the take: the coaches, athletic departments, universities and their TV enablers. Like Newton and Pryor, who actually could have used — in NCAA parlance — the "improper" or "impermissible" benefits being thrown around, Manziel figured out how to game the system, too. And just like them he'll probably flee to the pros before the NCAA enforcers can drop the velvet hammer on his school.