Randy Smith: Who Is To Blame In The “Johnny Football” Controversy?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

“Now men……here at “The Rock”, we have just one rule. And that’s to obey all rules.”-Deputy Barney Fife.

While college football fans, particularly Texas A&M fans wait for the NCAA hammer to drop on Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, we all must ask, “who can we blame for this?” Manziel is facing suspension for part or all of the 2013 season for getting paid for signing autographs in January.  I’ve narrowed it down to three.

First, let’s blame the broker; you know the guy who has stated he paid Manziel $7500 for signing mini-footballs and helmets during the BCS National Championship festivities in January. He reportedly has video of the Heisman winner signing, though there was no evidence of a cash exchange. The broker stated he was videoing the signing for proof the autographs were real. He also said he was no longer interested in selling the video, after ESPN declined to buy it. He did allow an ESPN reporter to see it but so far, no one else has witnessed it.

Secondly, let’s blame Johnny Manziel. He understood the NCAA rules completely. He knew it was wrong to take any money but he allegedly did it anyway. Now he has put his career and the entire Texas A&M season in jeopardy for a mere $7500. I overheard someone say this week, “Johnny Manziel could be the stupidest football player in the country.” I disagree; he’s not stupid. He lacks good moral fiber and character.

Finally, let’s blame the NCAA. It’s been dozens of years since a push began to allow amateur athletes to share in the tremendous profits being made by selling jerseys and autographs among other things. However, nothing has been done. Texas A&M has made a lot of money selling his jersey, so why shouldn’t he get a cut? I‘m sure “Johnny Football” himself would agree. There is absolutely nothing at all fair about that rule. Yet, it’s still there and the NCAA continues to enforce it.

There it is. All the blame for a potential lost season for Manziel and his Aggie teammates placed on two individuals and the NCAA. Guys like the broker who paid the money will always be there; bending and breaking rules simply to put money in his bank account. There will always be athletes like Manziel who is tempted by these jackals to have some extra spending money in his pocket. $7500 really isn’t a lot of money by today’s standards but it’s a lot when you’re a young man with few real expenses.

There is absolutely no way to enforce this rule. There are too many brokers and too many athletes to keep an eye on all of them, so only the high profile, Heisman Trophy winners and big-time college football players on nationally prominent teams will be caught. (Remember Ohio State?) With that stated, the NCAA should change or modify that rule right away.

I strongly feel if Johnny Manziel is guilty he should be punished. As unfair as the NCAA rule is, it was wrong to knowingly break it. And speaking of unfair……..the people who are affected the most by this are Manziel’s Aggie teammates. Texas A&M goes from a top-five program with “Johnny Football” to a non-top 25 team without him. That big offensive lineman who never gets recognized or asked for an autograph was counting on Manziel to be there to help him get a championship ring and make some super memories. Oh well.



Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).

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