By Kristie Rieken
The Associated Press
HOUSTON — Johnny Football’s season will start a little late.
Johnny Manziel was suspended for the first half of Texas A&M’s opening game against Rice on Saturday for what the school called an “inadvertent” violation of NCAA rules by signing autographs.
The penalty appears to have brought a quick end to an investigation that could have ruined the seventh-ranked Aggies’ upcoming season.
The school issued a statement Wednesday saying it declared the Heisman Trophy winner ineligible and that the NCAA agreed to reinstate Manziel after he sits out the first half against the underdog Owls.
“I am proud of the way both Coach Sumlin and Johnny handled this situation, with integrity and honesty,” Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp said in the statement. “We all take the Aggie Code of Honor very seriously and there is no evidence that either the university or Johnny violated that code.”
The quarterback was being investigated by the NCAA for allegedly accepting money for signing autographs for memorabilia brokers, a violation of NCAA rules that could have led to a much longer suspension. ESPN first reported the allegations against Manziel earlier this month.
According to the statement, Texas A&M and the NCAA “confirmed there is no evidence Manziel received money in exchange for autographs based on currently available information and statements by Manziel.”
Conditions for reinstatement include Manziel discussing his actions with teammates and A&M revising how it educates student-athletes about signing autographs.
“Student-athletes are often asked for autographs from fans, but unfortunately, some individuals’ sole motivation in seeking an autograph is for resale,” said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs. “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.”
He likely will be replaced in the starting lineup by either junior Matt Joeckel or freshman Kenny Hill. Joeckel has thrown only 11 passes in his college career.
The news of Manziel’s suspension was the talk of Twitter on Wednesday afternoon, with many questioning the length of the suspension. Former NFL and MLB star Deion Sanders was incredulous at the brevity of Manziel’s suspension, after Dez Bryant was suspended for an entire season while at Oklahoma State after lying about having dinner with Sanders.
“Can we investigate the investigators? (at)DezBryant got suspended a season 4 lying about a dinner that wasnt a violation & Manziel gets a half,” Sanders tweeted soon after the ruling was made public.
The decision also had a major impact in Las Vegas, where the odds of Manziel’s chances of repeating as a Heisman winner and Texas A&M’s chances of winning the national championship shifted dramatically on Wednesday. RJ Bell, the founder of sports betting web site Pregame.com, said that Manziel’s chances of winning the Heisman jumped from 12/1 to 6/1 on Wednesday, and the team’s shot at the title increased from 18/1 to 10/1.