Heisman winner Johnny Manziel will reportedly be forced to sit out the first half of Texas A&M's season opener against Rice this Saturday, a decision that depending on where you come down on the NCAA's controversial bylaws—or where you went to school—is either an absurdly short amount of time or entirely too harsh for an unpaid 20-year-old college star.
Regardless, the suspension—representing 30-minutes worth of game time—is more of a public shaming than a serious punishment given Manziel's Aggies remain heavy favorites to win this weekend with or without him. (In an alternative universe where Manziel were to start the game, it's not hard to imagine a scenario where he and his fellow first-teamers played only limited action anyway.)
Johnny Football had been accused of taking money from memorabilia dealers in exchange for signing autographs, a serious no-no under the NCAA's rules. Manziel repeatedly denied the accusations, and it's not exactly clear if the NCAA had the goods to prove the allegations. According to ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy, the suspension represents a deal between the school and the NCAA and was most likely for a smaller infraction, violating the NCCA bylaw that reads:
Title:22.214.171.124 - Use of a Student-Athlete's Name or Picture Without Knowledge or Permission.
If a student-athlete's name or picture appears on commercial items (e.g., T-shirts, sweatshirts, serving trays, playing cards, posters) or is used to promote a commercial product sold by an individual or agency without the student-athlete's knowledge or permission, the student-athlete (or the institution acting on behalf of the student-athlete) is required to take steps to stop such an activity in order to retain his or her eligibility for intercollegiate athletics. Such steps are not required in cases in which a student-athlete's photograph is sold by an individual or agency (e.g., private photographer, news agency) for private use.
Assuming the suspension represents the end of the NCAA investigation, it wraps up a hectic offseason for Manziel. He was sent home from the Manning Passing Academy, where he was a guest instructor, after sleeping through meetings, and was kicked out a frat party at the University of Texas. He was also the subject of a lengthy ESPN: the Magazine profile which revealed he underwent treatment for alcohol and anger issues.