News Column

Manziel's Half-game Suspension Raises Questions

August 30, 2013

The joint statement by Texas A&M and the NCAA announcing Johnny Manziel would face only a half-game suspension did not close the door to future investigations and said the NCAA based its findings on information provided by Manziel. It makes no mention of how many others -- including potential brokers for autograph deals -- were interviewed during the investigation.

Those parts of the joint press release caught the attention of Darren Rovell, the ESPN business reporter that A&M System Chancellor John Sharp specifically mentioned in an email sent to donors last week, writing that "Rovell of ESPN, who broke the story, has been duped before."

"It's a safe bet that the NCAA got no brokers to talk and likely didn't even get to talk to Nate Fitch either. No subpoena power," Rovell tweeted out following the news of Manziel's half-game suspension for A&M's Saturday opener against Rice. In a separate tweet, Rovell wrote, "NCAA couldn't close case on Manziel because they can't be sure of future. Will more time lead brokers/insiders to talk?"

When asked how many people the NCAA interviewed during the investigation and how many were non-Texas A&M employees, Emily Potter, associate director of public and media relations for the NCAA, wrote in an email that the NCAA will not have any comments outside the joint statement. Potter wrote that it is "not uncommon" for the NCAA to issue joint releases with the university following an investigation.

Following Sharp's criticism of Rovell's reporting on the autograph allegations, ESPN issued a simple statement: "We stand by our reporting."

Keri Potts, senior director of public relations for ESPN, echoed that statement Thursday following news that the NCAA could not find evidence of money received for autographs.

The reports of numerous autographed items did draw speculation from ESPN employees before news broke Wednesday. Kirk Herbstreit, one of ESPN's College Gameday announcers, was on Mike and Mike, an ESPN radio show, and asked what evidence or proof there was that the autographs took place. He asked if the allegations of thousands of autographed items were part of the investigation of Manziel, and the answer he got from one of the hosts was "it was part of the reporting."

"I'm one that in this day and age, I respect journalists and I know people do a lot of homework, I'm not saying that they've not," Herbstreit said on the radio. "But I think when you throw out that 'this happened -- we know this happened, because this memorabilia guy told me it happened,' I'm nervous with that. I need to hear from more people than just this guy who sells memorabilia and bothers people to put stuff up on eBay. That's your source? Well, I need more than that for me to be able to say that this kid can't play college football."

He continued, "That's why NCAA needs to talk to more people than the folks that get these players to sign stuff. That's not enough. I need more information than just allegations from sources who are these memorabilia folks."

Rovell did not return requests for comment on Thursday, but tweeted that it will be hard for the NCAA to continue to exist as it does today "if the thought is the NCAA can't conduct worthy investigations."

"Johnny Manziel is great for college football. The fan in me is happy we'll see [him] on the field. The reporter in me is very proud of our work," Rovell tweeted Wednesday.


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