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Op-Ed: Can the NCAA get it right?

Scott Halleran

Most of you already know about Johnny Manziel’s half game suspension for Texas A&M’s season opener against Rice. It came in the wake of an autograph caper. Manziel was caught signing a whole lot of stuff. The paraphernalia was alleged to be up in the thousands of items. Naturally, an investigation was launched by uncle NCAA.

Throughout the entire process, Manziel was adamant that no money exchanged hands. He was just a Good Samaritan, freely giving of his John Hancock to his beloved fans. Now, I’m not going to judge Mr. Manziel. That is neither here nor there, at least for this particular article.

However, before I move on to my issues with the NCAA, I can’t help but mention one more thing about Johnny Football. At the end of the day, the NCAA and Texas A&M were able to agree on two things. First, they agreed on his half game suspension. Second, they agreed that student athletes should know that if they sit down and sign thousands of autographs for known sports paraphernalia agent, those autographs are likely to be sold for commercial purposes …

Moving on.

Naturally, most of you are thinking something like this: "what does this have to do with Steven Rhodes?" Here’s my answer … everything.

Here’s how I imagined things worked out. Manziel signed a bunch of autographs and somebody in the room got footage of it on their iPhone. They promptly put it on facebook in an attempt to look cool, since they were at this secret autograph signing. The NCAA found out, notified the school and began its investigation. After doing numerous interviews, the NCAA could find no evidence that Manziel took any kind of compensation, other than the intangible feelings of being cool, and it suspended him for half a game.

Now look at Steven Rhodes’ case. He played some good ‘ol Marines tackle football while serving overseas, came home, and decided he wanted to play some college ball. He walked on to Middle Tennessee State’s team. The NCAA caught wind that he played in some kind of recreational league, and promptly took away two years of eligibility, and essentially suspended him for a year (forcing him to redshirt the season).

Something doesn’t add up. There could be numerous reasons. However, whatever the reasons are, they point to a very disappointing scenario: there is no consistency in the NCAA’s disciplinary procedures. While one person, who happens to be from a big SEC school, gets an investigation, the other person, from an FCS school, gets suspended and punished before such an investigation gets launched. To make it worse, that same kid doesn’t get his formal investigation until the appeals process has started.

Now, I’m not trying to point fingers at players. In fact, that’s not my concern at the moment. However, I do wonder why players don’t get the same process. It’s not fair, and it’s just another reason the NCAA is in such a weak position with just about everyone.