I have to open with a disclaimer. I am not a Johnny Football fan. I think Johnny Manzel is a bit of a reckless young dope. Everyone makes mistakes in their early 20's, but he seems to make more than most.
He is a train wreck waiting to happen.
Why do I say this? What pushed me over the edge on Manziel?
Allegedly, Manziel signed a bunch of autographs for pay to buy himself some new rims for his car.
The guy, who is reportedly from quite a wealthy family, reportedly put his collegiate eligibility at risk to buy rims that allegedly he could have easily bought on his own.
(Manziel and Texas A&M leaders deny it. The NCAA didn't have proof to make it stick, but A&M worked out a deal where Manziel would sit out half of a game --- a mismatch that was decided when it was scheduled --- in exchange for the NCAA never mentioning it again. That strongly suggests there was smoke there --- Way to show "institutional control" A&M... )
It hits me as the latest in a series of incidents that suggest Manziel is problematically immature and that an NFL owner would be silly to put the keys to their franchise in the hands of Johnny Manziel --- regardless of his obvious knack for making plays.
Now all of that said, this autograph scandal scandal really has everyone questioning the justice in the NCAA having rules limiting a student's ability to make money off their athletic fame while in college.
Let's take that and apply it back to Johnny Manziel.
Johnny Manziel may be an NFL flop. History is filled with top collegiate QBs who never get a fair shot in the NFL or get injured in college and never make it to the NFL.
Texas A&M fans are ridiculously football crazy and up until last season had been starved for top level success for decades.
How many A&M fans would have paid $40 for a signed picture of Johnny Manziel after last season? How much money would A&M boosters have paid their football rock star in appearance fees last spring if they were allowed to do so?
It is not out of the question that Manziel might have earned up to or even over a million dollars last year if he had been allowed to sell himself to Aggie fans.
Immature brat or not, I cannot think of a valid reason he should not have been able to earn money off his fame, just like Miley Cyrus or any other entertainer.
What ever that number is, Manziel's unstable behavior has certainly cut into the demand he might get today. (And that doesn't even begin to cover the basic loss of demand resultant from him no longer being "new").
This is in affect a macrocosm of the earning lifespan of your average college football star.
When the iron is hot, only the NCAA and the schools can make money off the player's fame. It isn't right.
Manziel's situation just makes the numbers bigger and easier for a fan to see the injustice of those NCAA rules.
The Manziel autograph scandal in it self is quite interesting. When you link it to the amount of money that was donated to A&M last year it becomes mind-boggling.
Lets look at the link between A&M's football success and their fund raising efforts.
In 2008-09 A&M finished #89 and they received $187 Million in donations from fans and alumni.
In 2009-10, A&M finished #58 and that number was $212 Million.
In 2010-11, A&M finished #20 and that number was $184 Million.
In 2011-12, A&M finished #14 and that number was $181 Million.
Last year Manziel carried A&M to a #3 finish in the final Sagarain rankings --- unheard of recent Aggie history. He single-handedly validated Aggie dreams of what value moving to the SEC might create.
A&M pulled in $740 Million in donations in 2012-13.
To put this into perspective, the top fund raising university in 2012 was California Berkley with $405 Million in donations.
A&M almost doubled that. Just think about that.
There is an argument to be made that Johnny Football may have brought in anywhere from $528 to $559 million dollars to A&M last year.
Again this is similar to dynamics that occur all over college football, just on a much, much larger scale as Aggies love football. Not every alumnibase is as football crazy as A&M's, but there are other ways to see the value football athletes generate for schools.
College athletics is a "loss leader" promotion for universities. Football especially.
When Doug Flutie won the Heisman Trophy, Boston College saw an explosion of applications the following year. It is not inaccurate to say that Flutie's miracle pass expanded enrollment and allowed BC to have a slightly better academic profile among their next few incoming classes. Forgetting all the other doors that opened for BC, that kind of application explosion alone is worth a lot to a university.
Since Wichita State dropped football, they have seen their university growth flatline vs. in state competition Kansas State and Kansas. Dropping football is a decision that viewed to through the lens of history appears very short sighted.
Since Lamar, a university located in football crazy east Texas, reinstated football with an eye on eventual FBS status, they have seen their enrollment grow from 11,000 to over 14,000. A gain of tuition for 3000 students is pretty significant.
Taking it back to A&M and Manziel as it is again a much more glaring example, why should a kid like Manziel be prevented from making $1M (or more) selling himself to rabid football fans when his university appears to have made 500 times that amount last year doing the same.