Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel has been suspended for the first half of Texas A&M’s season opening game for an “inadvertent” violation of NCAA rules. The NCAA and Texas A&M announced that Manziel would receive the minor penalty because there is no evidence that Manziel received money in exchange for signing autographs, based on currently available information and statements made by Manziel to NCAA investigators.

Texas A&M suggested the penalty to the NCAA because it believed that Manziel had only committed an inadvertent violation of NCAA bylaw by his signing of certain autographs. The bylaw specifically prohibits student-athletes from permitting the use of their names or likenesses to be used for commercial purposes, including to advertise, recommend or promote sales of commercial products, or to accept payment for the use of their names or likenesses. Although the NCAA accepted the proposed penalty, it specifically reserved the right to consider further action against Manziel pursuant to this bylaw if “additional information comes to light”.

In addition to its decision to declare Manziel ineligible and recommend the half game penalty to the NCAA, Texas A&M suggested the following additional conditions before Manziel could be reinstated by the NCAA:

  • Manziel will address the team regarding the autograph situation and the lessons he has learned;
  • Texas A&M will revise its future education programs to include information concerning student-athlete signing autographs for individuals with multiple items.

“Student-athletes are often asked for autographs from fans, but unfortunately, some individuals’ sole motivation in seeking an autograph is for resale,” NCAA Vice President of Academic and Membership Affairs Kevin Lennon said. “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.”

Manziel has been the center of attention during pre-season practice since it was reported that he had allegedly been paid a “five figure flat fee” by a Florida sports memorabilia dealer for signing autographs while he attended the 2013 BCS National Championship game. With daily speculation questioning the potential penalty Manziel might receive, the NCAA agreed to the proposed minor penalty following a lengthy interview session with Manziel.

The NCAA stated, “NCAA rules are clear that student-athletes may not accept money for items they sign, and based upon the information provided by Manziel, that did not happen in this case.”

Based on the information submitted by the university, the NCAA accepted the conditions as put forward by Texas A&M. “I am proud of the way both Coach (Kevin) Sumlin and Johnny (Manziel)  handled this situation, with integrity and honesty,” Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said. “We all take the Aggie Code of Honor very seriously and there is no evidence that either the university or Johnny violated that code.”


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Photo of Gregg E. Clifton Gregg E. Clifton

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in…

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in the collegiate and professional sports world. He has advised numerous professional franchises on general labor and employment issues, including Title III ADA regulatory compliance and wage and hour issues. He serves as lead counsel for several Major League Baseball teams in their salary arbitration matters and has represented NCAA and NAIA collegiate clients regarding rules compliance, investigatory matters and in disciplinary hearings. In addition, he has handled Title IX investigations and compliance issues for NCAA and NAIA member institutions. Mr. Clifton has also worked extensively in the area of agent regulation and enforcement in professional and college sports and regularly provides counsel on issues relating to NCAA and NAIA amateurism issues and athlete eligibility questions. He has also served as an expert witness in matters involving sports agents’ work and responsibilities, as well as athlete compensation issues.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, he spent six years as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Team Sports for Gaylord Sports Management. He also served as President of the Athlete and Entertainment Division for famed sports attorney Bob Woolf’s firm, Woolf Associates, in Boston.

Mr. Clifton began his career as an Associate at Jackson Lewis where he focused his practice on traditional labor law. He continues to counsel clients in the areas of collective bargaining negotiations, representation cases, arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board matters.

Mr. Clifton frequently serves as an expert speaker to law schools, including Harvard University, Boston College, Hofstra University and Arizona State University, and bar associations regarding sports law issues, including agent regulation and salary arbitration. He is also often cited as an expert source in national news media for his commentary and opinion on legal issues in sports.