Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who last season became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, is being investigated by the NCAA for reportedly signing autographs in exchange for money, according to ESPN.com.
The network’s “Outside the Lines” branch reported that, according to multiple sources who witnessed the autograph session, Manziel agreed to a “five-figure flat fee” by an autograph broker to sign hundreds of photos and football memorabilia items during the quarterback’s trip to the BCS national championship game in Miami in early January. The sources said they did not see Manziel accept any money.
Manziel could be ruled ineligible should the NCAA rule that he violated one of its bylaws that prevents student-athletes from profiting from commercial sale of a product or service.
The ESPN report stated that the NCAA’s assistant director of enforcement contacted the autograph broker in June. The NCAA declined comment on the report, citing standard policy.
Memorabilia dealers told “Outside the Lines” that the market was flooded by autographed Manziel merchandise following the BCS title game. In March, Texas A&M’s compliance director issued a statement that said Manziel “has never [and to his knowledge, his parents, other relatives, and friends have ever] been compensated through cash or other benefits or promises of deferred compensation for providing his autograph.”
The Heisman win elevated Manziel to national celebrity status, and this offseason he has been scrutinized over high-profile public appearances, such as the NBA Finals and various nightspots, and some of his tweets.