Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's suspension for just one half of the Aggies' season opener against Rice leads to just one conclusion about the NCAA's investigation: that it found nothing.
First reported at Texags.com, the NCAA has since released an official statement on the closure of the matter. At least, it's closure for the moment. The NCAA left open the possibility of new discovery meriting the case be re-opened.
But the NCAA was clear that it is, for now, bereft of evidence.
"Texas A&M University and the NCAA confirmed today that there is no evidence that quarterback Johnny Manziel received money in exchange for autographs, based on currently available information and statements by Manziel," the statement read.
Clearly unable to verify what ESPN had reported three times -- that Manziel had accepted money for mass autograph sessions with dealers -- the NCAA was left to rely on Manziel himself. Once that was clear, stipulating with TAMU's recommendation was a given. A one-half suspension isn't the sort of thing the NCAA does. It's a penalty largely unique to the institutional level, much the way the Aggies just assesed a one-half suspension last week to defensive back Deshazor Everett.
The NCAA's Kevin Lennon issued the following comment:
"Student-athletes are often asked for autographs from fans, but unfortunately, some individuals' sole motivation in seeking an autograph is for resale. 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."
With Texas A&M being represented by a high-profile law firm, and Manziel securing his own representation with El Paso attorney Jim Darnell, the NCAA faced a major challenge if its evidentiary findings were short of what had been reported. And with an enforcement staff that has been gutted of experience, the prosecutorial side of the aisle wasn't in a good position from the beginning.
Reportedly, that investigation culminated in a near six-hour meeting Sunday with Manziel, one in which Johnny Football proved as elusive in an eligibility case as he is on the gridiron.
Manziel 1, NCAA 0.