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Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Manziel mess is NCAA hypocrisy at its finest

Nothing has changed much since July 9, 1776.

That was the day John Hancock, having signed the Declaration of Independence, autographed some 4,000 souvenir “Let Freedom Ring” parchments for a Philadelphia dealer. It cost Hancock his amateur status.

How soon we forget.

Should college athletes get paid?

Thanks to chucklehead Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, the issue is under center.

Johnny Goofball might have made money signing autographs during his wild child victory roll. What hasn’t this spoiled brat not done? He’s a train wreck. Next stop: Ryan Leaf.

He might get suspended, maybe for the season, except Texas A&M has a showdown in early September, as annual national champion Alabama comes to College Station to seek revenge against Johnny Upset.

Do you think TV is going to pass on those ratings? Do you think the NCAA is going to rain on the almighty SEC?

Yes, it’s all about the money ... until someone mentions paying the athletes ... which is when the NCAA and college presidents hit the play button on “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Let Hypocrisy Ring.

I have little sympathy for Manziel. Don’t give me this Poor Johnny and Pressure of Fame baloney. He knew the rules. If he ran right through them, he should be brought down, hard. But so should the illusion of “student-athlete,” that oh, so holy term that has long given the NCAA power, and is used by powerhouse college programs as they cash in on athletes.

Look, I was once a true believer. I still think scholarship athletes get a lot. I believe a college education is treasure. I also think paying athletes would present immense problems.

But times have changed.

The money is too monstrous now.

You just can’t look the other way anymore.

The ideal that an education is more than enough payment doesn’t fly, because wherever these college athletes look they see that enough is never enough, not for top coaches and their ever mushrooming, or top athletic directors, or conferences grubbing for better deals, or schools selling their athletes to the highest bidders.

This fall, count the corporate logos on college football uniforms, just count them.

When it was reported that the NCAA was investigating Manziel for taking money, ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, my hero, pointed out that the NCAA itself had no qualms about making dough off Manziel, seeing as an NCAA online store allowed fans to purchase a Manziel jersey. The NCAA has stopped selling school merchandise.

Yeah, that horse is back in that barn ...

Look, if athletes can’t have salaries, put a salary cap on coaches. Stop allowing sales of any photos of college players, or jerseys with numbers on them.

There’s a case in the courts right now, O’Bannon v. NCAA, an antitrust class action whose lead plaintiff is former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon. The suit challenges the legality of the NCAA making commercial use of images of former college players without compensating the players. Keep an eye on this one. It could change everything.

I used to be sentimental about amateurism. And then millions, billions poured in, unstoppable streams of revenue. Hypocrisy is piled high against the dam. It’s time to find a way to pay these kids, a stipend, something, anything. It’s nothing more than fair.

You don’t need a college degree to know that.

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