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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Column: So long, NCAA

I’ve long been tired of the student-athlete moniker and the notions it implies. So has Johnny Manziel, apparently, because it took him a month to permanently compromise the idea.
His on-field play is as scintillating as it comes, but who could have predicted the business acumen and savvy Manziel would flash this offseason? Dont be fooled by the Twitter feed stuffed with Mardi Gras beads, talk of haters and celebrity photos Manziel and his circle know what theyre doing.
In comments made at the acceptance dinner for his Davey OBrien Award, Manziel confirmed something A&M fans have taken for granted for some time: the quarterback is taking an online-only course load. The joke that athletes dont actually go to class is a longstanding one, but now its reality. The athlete with the highest profile in the nation the one who brought a dash of youthful, maroon brashness to the fraternity of Heisman winners doesnt attend classes on A&M soil. How else could he continue his frenetic pace of public appearances? Who hasnt he met?
Dont overlook the significance of this announcement. At surface level, the question has to be asked whether it is even possible to graduate with a business degree taking only online courses. Doesnt this cement the idea that hell bounce after another year in Aggieland for the NFL? Digging deeper, this represents an about-face in the way we look at college athletes. Hes not a student-athlete because hes only a student in the loosest possible sense.
He hasnt stopped there. Last week, Manziels corporation (JMAN2 Enterprises not making this up) filed suit against a man who sold Keep Calm and Johnny Football shirts in violation of Manziels 2012 licensing of the nickname. The result of the lawsuit isnt the important part. Manziel cant directly profit on his name and accomplishments (even while the NCAA and A&M make millions on the No. 2 jersey and the quarterback who wears it), but the NCAA informed A&M that a student-athlete can keep financial earnings as a result of a legal action.
If he wins this suit and the ones that could follow, the money is his own.
In the past month, Manziel has peeled the skin off the NCAAs bureaucratic nonsense and opened a loophole to (legally) make a profit off his own name and (legally) exempt himself from attending class. Hes not a student anymore, and hes not an amateur. Hes an athlete. And why shouldnt he be?
Fans are peddled artificial constructions every day, and the ability to sift through them is crucial for this discussion. Well start with Manziel himself. Johnny Football the most down-South American nickname that has ever been and will ever be is Jonathon Manziel of Kerrville, Texas, as he called himself in his first-ever addressing of the media, because he wants to be. Kerrville kids that want to remain Kerrville kids dont have things like JMAN2 Enterprises attached to their names.
His small-town image is as much a construction as the Heismanziel marketing campaign that launched him into the public, which is as much a construction as the NCAAs glorification of amateurism. Athletes have a shelf life. They dont last long. The average NFL career, according to the Players Association, is a shade over three years. Elite athleticism is a marketable skill, and the NCAA knows it, which is why it cashes in on these skills for millions every year. The players are expected to be content with a scholarship for a degree many of them wont stay around long enough to see. Team spirit, loyalty when will we stop forcing these buzz words on eighteen-year-olds? The only amateur competition that can hold up in a comparison to its professional counterpart is SEC football. And even in that case, the product is so similar in fanfare and monetary exchange that squeezing SEC football (with Manziel as the face) into a one-size-fits-all lens of viewing athlete compensation is ridiculous. A third-party study found that Manziels Heisman win generated $37 million in media impressions (read: free, valuable advertising). How much did Manziel see? Speculative ticket pricing has Alabamas Sept. 14 trip to College Station in the thousands of dollars per seat. Whats Manziels cut?
The student-athlete moniker is an anachronistic, almost-funny joke. Havent we known it all along? Apparently, all we needed was an athlete with a little free time to topple the NCAAs ideas of student and amateur. His online-only schedule must have bought him more time than anyone imagined, because somewhere between Duck Dynasty meet-and-greets, Wale concerts and the NBA All-Star Game, Manziel managed to undermine everything on which college footballs governing body stood.

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