Johnny Manziel suspended for half of opener

5:13 PM, Aug 28, 2013   |    comments
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Texas A&M's athletics director Eric Hyman said Monday that the Aggies' players and coaches will not discuss the status of Johnny Manziel (2) this week. (Photo: Soobum Im, USA TODAY Sports)

(USA Today Sports) -- Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will be suspended for the first half of the Aggies' season-opening game against Rice on Saturday for an "inadvertent violation" of NCAA rules regarding autograph signing, a school official confirmed to USA TODAY Sports.

A&M senior associate athletic director Jason Cook told USA TODAY Sports both the school and the NCAA found "there is no evidence Manziel received monetary reward in exchange for autographs."

MORE | Reports: Manziel meets with NCAA, denies wrongdoing
MORE | report: Manziel accepted money for autographs


But the NCAA and the school agreed that student-athletes should know that when signing numerous autographs in one sitting, such autographs are likely to be sold for commercial purposes.

PHOTOS | Manziel to be suspended for first half of season opener

Cook said the inadvertent violation, related to the commercial use of his name, has not been applied before. Texas A&M and the NCAA agreed on the suspension, Cook said. He said the investigation is considered to be closed.

Manziel's immediate future has been uncertain since ESPN's Outside the Lines reported three weeks ago that he had been paid a "five figure flat fee" by Florida sports memorabilia collector Drew Tieman for signing autographs last January, during Manziel's visit to the site of the 2013 BCS Championship game. Subsequent allegations have been made by other autograph dealers to ESPN. NCAA Bylaw 12.5.2.1 prohibits players from accepting money for promotion or sale of a product or service.

Citing a person familiar with the investigation, ESPN reported Monday night that NCAA investigators "spent a large chunk of Sunday" questioning Manziel on the allegations.

Manziel has been practicing with the Aggies. Although practices are closed, indications are Texas A&M has prepared as though he would start against Rice.

Monday evening, the school released a statement from athletics director Eric Hyman about Manziel.

"The focus of our coaches and student-athletes is solely on preparing for Rice this Saturday, and in the best interests of Texas A&M and the 100-plus student-athletes on the team, I have instructed Coach Sumlin, his staff and our student-athletes to refrain from commenting on or answering questions regarding the status of our starting quarterback, Johnny Manziel," the statement read.

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin declined to address the topic in interviews this week. Players followed suit.

Manziel has not spoken to the media since the initial news reports. His family also has declined interviews with USA TODAY Sports and other news organizations.

Jim Darnell, an attorney retained by the Manziel family in July, before the allegations were made public, did not immediately return phone calls Wednesday. But he told USA TODAY Sports he didn't believe Manziel would miss any playing time. "I think when all this comes out on the other end, he'll be the starting quarterback for the Aggies against Rice."

Texas A&M retained the firm of Lightfoot, Franklin & White. The firm, based in Birmingham, previously represented Auburn during the 2010 season, when allegations swirled about quarterback Cam Newton's eligibility. Newton never sat out any games during the investigation into allegations that his father had sought payment from Mississippi State to deliver his son to that school.

On Aug. 5, the day after the allegations were first reported, Hyman told USA TODAY Sports the school would "do the due diligence, just get an understanding," but added that given the hype over Manziel's offseason, the school was trying "to judge how much traction this has."

Manziel has not spoken to the media since the initial news reports. His family also has declined interviews with USA TODAY Sports and other news organizations.

Jim Darnell, an attorney retained by the Manziel family in July, before the allegations were made public, told USA TODAY Sports he didn't believe Manziel would miss any playing time. "I think when all this comes out on the other end, he'll be the starting quarterback for the Aggies against Rice."

Texas A&M retained the firm of Lightfoot, Franklin & White. The firm, based in Birmingham, previously represented Auburn during the 2010 season, when allegations swirled about quarterback Cam Newton's eligibility. Newton never sat out any games during the investigation into allegations that his father had sought payment from Mississippi State to deliver his son to that school.

On Aug. 5, the day after the allegations were first reported, Hyman told USA TODAY Sports the school would "do the due diligence, just get an understanding," but added that given the hype over Manziel's offseason, the school was trying "to judge how much traction this has."

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