Johnny Football’s Half-Day Off And The NCAA’s “Incompetence”

College Football, Games, Management, Media, Players, Politics

Apart from Texas A&M and the NCAA, it’s universally agreed that the half-game suspension of quarterback Johnny Manziel is an insult to society’s collective intelligence. What most are doing in their ravaging of the NCAA is looking at it from the wrong perspective. Once the way the NCAA runs its operation is examined for what it is, then there won’t be such moral outrage at the ambiguity of its rules.

Let’s look at the myths and misinterpretations regarding the NCAA.

The incompetence is unintentional.

It’s very easy to be stupid when one is stupid. There’s also less of a backlash. But when one is run by a large outfit of seemingly intelligent people who know the law, know the rules and know about ethics (even if they don’t apply its principles), then it goes beyond not knowing what one is doing. It extends to knowing what one is doing better than critics and adversaries. The NCAA knew that there would be this kind of reaction to such a silly penalty for Manziel allegedly signing autographs and getting paid for it. They also knew that there was an expectation that they’d let him slide if it was proven he did anything against the rules. They split the baby by failing to provide evidence that he signed the autographs and was paid, but punished him anyway. They didn’t let him slide, but technically didn’t use preferential treatment with him or his school. In a backwards way, it’s brilliant.

Fundamental principles apply

It was never actually proven that Manziel did anything wrong, but that’s never mattered to the NCAA. The key is that Manziel is the Heisman Trophy winner for a big-time college football school. He was the first freshman to win the award and is a rainmaking celebrity. If this was some walk-on kid who has a uniform and might get in for five plays in a season in a couple of blowouts, the point would be moot because no one would be asking for his autograph let alone pay him for it. If it was a mid-level kid who had a partial scholarship and signed an autograph for $10 because he played for a big time college program even though no one knew who he was, he would’ve been used as an example by the NCAA of what happens to those who violate the rules and punished to the fullest extent possible. Since it’s Manziel, he gets a tsk-tsk-tsk slap on the wrist, warning not to do it again (whatever it was he did or didn’t do), a wink and a nod and unsaid understanding that he and his school are special cases.

The NCAA is not a dictatorship

The NCAA is the dominant administration in college sports and acts like it. There’s a “what are you gonna do about it?” attitude for which there is a certain amount of justification. Precisely what, other than write angry columns and lampoon the penalty, is anyone going to do to bring down this monolith known as the NCAA?

It’s a dictatorship and like any type of government run in such a manner, the results are what’s important. If Manziel’s punishment was seen as appropriate, they’d strut around and use it to exemplify why the NCAA knows what it’s doing. Since there’s such an overtly negative reaction to it, it’s twisted into an agreement between the school and the governing body to function as a warning that even the biggest stars in college sports can be subject to sanctions.

In other words, if it works, I was for it; if it doesn’t, I’ll point the person next to me and blame him.

It’s not about money

Dictatorships need funding and funding comes from people with money. Boosters who support universities and their athletic programs are not going to sit idly by when the players who help the teams win are suspended for questionable reasons. Television networks counting on big ratings from broadcasting Texas A&M games simply because they have Manziel are going to demand he be allowed to play. The number of people connected by the NCAA reaches exponential proportions. That was never going to be placed in jeopardy over $7,500 supposedly paid to a kid who’s already from a wealthy family.

There are qualifications that can be made. Money from collegiate sports is used to increase a school’s visibility, attract students, promote research and raise the boats for all. Are any of the featured players in the drama going to allow one autograph session harm everything that is linked by college sports?

The NCAA must maintain its façade of being about healthy competition between schools side-by-side with the fact that it’s a business. It’s a big business with a don’t ask/don’t tell/don’t get caught policy. Depending on who it is that gets caught will determine what the punishment will be. Since it was Manziel, the punishment is one-half of one game that the team would probably win no matter who’s playing quarterback. It’s a non-suspension suspension to give the NCAA and the school plausible deniability that they’re looking the other way and that there are issues in play other than their contradictory rules.

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