Manziel Suspended for First Half of Season Opener Against Rice

Johnny Manziel was suspended for the first half of Texas A&M University’s season-opening football game against Rice University for a violation connected to his signing of autographs.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association was investigating whether the 20-year-old Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback was paid for autographs by a memorabilia dealer. The governing body for U.S. college athletics said in a release that, while it found no evidence of a money transaction, Manziel will be suspended for “an inadvertent violation” related to signing.

The discipline was proposed by the school and accepted by the NCAA, according to yesterday’s release.

“Texas A&M is committed to competing with integrity and sportsmanship, and we will continue to ensure strict compliance,” Athletic Director Eric Hyman said in the release.

Ranked No. 7 in the preseason Associated Press poll, the Aggies host Rice on Aug. 31. As part of the punishment, Manziel also will address the team regarding lessons learned from the NCAA investigation and Texas A&M will revise its education of student-athletes concerning autographs.

Known as “Johnny Football,” Manziel led the Southeastern Conference with 1,410 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns as a freshman last season, while passing for 3,706 yards and 26 scores. He’s the first NCAA player with more than 5,000 total yards to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season.

Defeated Alabama

The Aggies finished last season 11-2, ranked No. 5 in the year-end AP poll. Texas A&M handed eventual national champion Alabama its only loss of the season on Nov. 10 and beat Oklahoma 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4.

The NCAA was trying to determine whether Manziel was paid at least $10,000 for signing photographs and sports memorabilia while attending college football’s national championship game in Miami in January, ESPN reported this month. Many of those items were later sold online by a memorabilia dealer, according to ESPN. NCAA rules state that student-athletes may not accept money for items they sign.

“Student-athletes are often asked for autographs from fans, but unfortunately, some individuals’ sole motivation in seeking an autograph is for resale,” Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs, said in the statement. “It is important that schools are cognizant and educate student-athletes about situations in which there is a strong likelihood that the autograph seeker plans to resell the items.”

Junior Matt Joeckel and freshman Kenny Hill are the two other quarterbacks listed on the Texas A&M depth chart. Joeckel completed five of 11 passes last season for 42 yards and no touchdowns.

To contact the reporters on this story: Eben Novy-Williams in New York at enovywilliam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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