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Phillip Marshall: The truth about how the NCAA works

Aug 27, 2013

Ripping into the NCAA is all the rage these days. And the way the NCAA does business certainly is open to criticism. But the amount of misinformation floating around the worldwide web and talk radio is remarkable.

The talk will heat up again in wake of a report that NCAA investigators spent six hours Sunday talking to Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. Does Texas A&M play him in Saturday’s season-opener or hold him out?

The fact is that decision has probably been made, and made in name only by Texas A&M.

Most likely, after the interview with Manziel, the NCAA either recommended he be held out or it didn’t. That recommendation is as good as an order. If the NCAA recommended he be held out, you can rest assured he will be held out. If the NCAA didn’t make that recommendation, he will play.

Either way, that doesn’t mean it’s over.

In 2010, the NCAA interviewed Cam Newton and his family on Thursday before Auburn played Georgia. There was no recommendation that he sit, and he didn’t. If NCAA officials had told Auburn that he should be held out, he would have been.

What has the NCAA told Texas A&M? There’s a good chance we won’t know until Saturday.

Back to misinformation about the NCAA:

* The NCAA is not some monolithic dictator harassing the schools that play college football. Those schools are the NCAA. They can change the rules any time they want to change them. The people who work in the enforcement division are there to enforce the rules, not make the rules.

* Unless you want to count possibly getting a small cut of the money from jerseys once sold on its web site, the NCAA has not made one cent off Manziel or any other college football player. The NCAA does not get money from college football television and hasn’t since 1984. The NCAA essentially runs on the money it makes from the NCAA Basketball Tournament.



* When the BCS-level schools talk about wanting to make their own rules and do more for players, they aren’t talking about allowing those players to be paid for signing autographs or selling jerseys. They are talking about full cost of attendance scholarships. I feel very safe in saying that, even if those schools struck out on their own, it would still be illegal for college athletes to be paid for signing autographs.

* Why would being paid for autographs be illegal? Because college football and college basketball have to deal with boosters and agents. That’s a unique situation. If you allow players to be paid for those things, it would quickly get out of control. You hear about “$100 handshakes,” and there is no doubt they happen every Saturday. Does the NCAA get involved? Nope, because it’s really not a big deal. A hundred bucks to spend having a good time is a far different matter than thousands of dollars for autographs.

* The most amusing thing I hear – and I hear it from national reporters – is that Manziel so good and so entertaining that the NCAA should leave him alone. Ironically, you never heard that about Newton. What’s the difference? You be the judge. Instead, you heard breathless reports of big stories like the one that told the world Newton had some unpaid parking tickets at Florida.

There are plenty of things the NCAA enforcement officials could and should do better. Many investigations last longer than is reasonable. Investigators frequently rely on evidence that seems flimsy. They sometimes look hard at situations at one school while seemingly ignoring similar situations at another.

But they don’t make rules. The schools that play the games make the rules.


Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for Follow Marshall on Twitter:



Opinions expressed here are those of columnist Phillip Marshall and not necessarily those of the Auburn athletics department.

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