Could Johnny Manziel's college football career be a one-year flash?
If Sunday's breaking news from ESPN proves to be a problem for the Texas A&M quarterback, the answer could be yes.
ESPN is reporting that the NCAA is investigating whether Manziel was paid for a large amount of memorabilia signed in early January after his arrival in South Florida to attend the BCS National Championship Game between Alabama and Notre Dame. NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes from receiving payments in exchange for "promoting or advertising the commercial sale of a product or service." If the NCAA were to conclude that Manziel violated the bylaw controlling that action, he could potentially be ruled ineligible.
Already, there have been some fairly strong indications that the third-year sophomore's 2013 season was likely to be his last, anyway. Manziel redshirted in 2011 and became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy last season. This year is to be his third since leaving high school, which would make him eligible to declare for the NFL draft next spring if he chose to do so.
While the investigation is sure to grip the attention of Texas A&M fans until it is completed, it should be noted that the ESPN sources confirming that Manziel signed large quantities of items for memorabilia dealer Drew Tieman -- reportedly in exchange for a five-figure fee -- did not also indicate they had direct knowledge of any payments to Manziel.
The investigation also places Texas A&M in a difficult situation. The Aggies, sure to investigate themselves if they hadn't already begun to do so, could choose to play Manziel if they conclude no NCAA rules were violated. However, if the NCAA's investigation subsequently concluded otherwise, the Aggies could potentially forfeit any games Manziel appeared in. Another option for TAMU would be to wait for the NCAA's investigation to conclude, even if that meant withholding Manziel from playing until the issue was resolved to the NCAA's satisfaction.