John Sharp took over as chancellor of the Texas A&M University System in August 2011. He presided over their flagship school's transition to the SEC, watched the Aggies redshirt freshman quarterback win the Heisman and then endured the bevy of Johnny Manziel stories over the offseason along with the rest of us. In a letter sent to the A&M community and business leaders, Sharp defended Manziel against the ESPN reporter who first raised allegations of the quarterback being paid for his autograph:
Darren Rovell of ESPN, who broke this story, has been duped before. During his report on Johnny Manziel, he cites unnamed sources who refuse to provide an interview or any tangible proof. In fact, his "named source," Drew Tieman (initially referred to as the broker), was reportedly booked twice for possession of marijuana and placed on four years probation. He has taken down his Facebook page, changed his telephone number and is refusing attempts to be interviewed by the NCAA. It is surprising that the nation's largest sports channel would support publication with this lack of corroboration.
Since Rovell's publication, other memorabilia brokers have come forward saying they paid for Manziel's signature, but none of them have provided any proof he took money. As it stands now, there's no sign that Manziel will miss the Aggies' season opener against Rice.
Sharp has been a vocal defender of Manziel, saying "He is an honest kid, he has his heart in the right place and I think a whole bunch of folks are mistreating him and I’m not very happy about that.”
Obviously Sharp has a very vested interest in keeping Manziel eligible and his reputation as clean as possible. To the chancellor's credit, he also acknowledged the hypocrisy of the system from which his school is profiting mightily:
"I also think that there’s something, you know this is just me talking not as chancellor of the system, something is wrong with the system when we can make money off of our football players, the NCAA make money off of our football players and they can’t be treated like Olympic athletes."
"I suspect, courts or somebody or the NCAA is going to have to take a look at that and see whether or not they’re violating someone’s anti-trust deal. How can the NCAA, for instance, make money off of his jerseys and he can’t, you know, make two bucks off of signing something like that, like other athletes can who happen to be in the Olympics? That’s just my opinion.”
The instance of Rovell being duped that Sharp referred to is a June 2012 story about how high-end escort services were losing money due to the NBA lockout. The owner of the service Rovell was corresponding with was a high school senior without a stake in the companionship business.