August 10, 2013
Johnny Manziel's attorney predicted late Friday that the Texas A&M quarterback will be under center when the Aggies open the season against Rice on Aug. 31.
That's debatable, in all likelihood, after a pair of ESPN.com reports in the last week cited memorabilia brokers saying the Heisman Trophy winner accepted thousands of dollars in exchange for his autograph, a clear violation of NCAA rules.
The media is covering every angle of the story, from Manziel's every action to the hypocrisy of the NCAA's profiting off student-athletes to Manziel's parents putting their house near College Station, Texas, up for sale.
Manziel is tough to cheer for, but it's important to note, in the light of another couple of stories this week in the Southeastern Conference, that the quarterback hasn't hurt anyone. Maybe he's exhibited a brazen disregard for rules. Perhaps he's a cocky punk. It's possible he'll one day be viewed as a renegade who _ knowingly or unknowingly _ stood up to the NCAA and changed the face of collegiate athletics forever.
But he hasn't hurt anyone. The same can't be said today in Nashville, Tenn., or Baton Rouge, La. We'll start with Nashville, where late Friday, four former Vanderbilt players were indicted on multiple counts each in connection with an alleged rape of a female VU student in June.
Two things caught my eye when reading that story. One was the word unconscious. If the former players wanted in connection with the alleged rape are guilty, here's hoping there's a special place in hell for their permanent residence. The second was the reference to the likelihood of subpoenas for several witnesses. Let me be clear: I have no idea what the players in question, including Vanderbilt starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, saw or didn't see. However, it's what I desperately want to know.
Carta-Samuels is among five current Commodores listed in the indictment as witnesses for the prosecution if the case goes to trial. The others include offensive lineman Jake Bernstein, wide receiver DeAndre Woods, tight end Dillon van der Wal and snapper Mack Prioleau. Perhaps they received texts. Perhaps they went to the authorities. I just want to know, and frankly, I want to know before the Commodores open the season on Aug. 29 against Ole Miss.
I can't help it, I guess. As a father of two young girls, I find rape to be as unforgivable as murder, and that word, witnesses, conjures the idea that others saw something allegedly happening and did nothing to stop it. I don't want police to jeopardize their case, but I'd like that answer. Further, if the five potential witnesses didn't actually see anything, police owe it to them to clarify the specific reason they're being subpoenaed.
One way or the other, there should be _ and likely will be, in fairness _ outrage in and around the Vanderbilt football program. If the allegations are true, a young woman's life has been destroyed. Manziel has done nothing of the kind.
On to Baton Rouge, where running back Jeremy Hill was reinstated to the Tigers' football program earlier this week after
State District Judge Bonnie Jackson ordered Hill to perform 40 hours of community service and renewed restrictions on his probation, ones imposed after Hill's guilty plea to battery charges stemming from an April incident in which he punched a man at a Baton Rouge bar. But she also agreed to curfew flexibility that allowed him to take part in team activities.
The April arrest violated the terms of Hill's existing probation from his guilty plea of carnal knowledge of a juvenile during his time as a high school student. Prosecutors had asked for Hill's probation to be revoked, which would have sent him back to jail.
But while admonishing Hill over the "arrogance" he showed on a video of the April incident -- in which Hill laughs after delivering a blow that sent the victim to the hospital -- Jackson also said she understands that young people make mistakes.
Hill said that he "let my emotions get the best of me" at the April incident and was "terribly sorry."
Hill's Monday hearing was originally scheduled for Aug. 16 before a request from Hill's attorney, Marci Blaize, to move it forward to Aug. 5. Blaize denied that the rescheduling was in response to the Tigers' practice schedule, saying she had a scheduling conflict with the Aug. 16 date and adding that her primary goal was to keep Hill enrolled at LSU and registered for classes.
Somewhere Manziel is wondering why this isn't a bigger story. The video of Hill's attack is disturbing on multiple levels. Hill is still in school at LSU because he can help win football games. CBS' Gregg Doyel nailed it in a column earlier this week. TCU coach Gary Patterson, who will coach against the Tigers in three weeks, criticized LSU coach Les Miles for reinstating Hill, saying the action didn't teach a life lesson. He's right, of course, but Miles is paid to win games, not teach life lessons.
Still, Hill shouldn't be playing on SEC football fields. Miles shouldn't have allowed it. Vanderbilt owes fans some answers too. People shouldn't be asked to spend money to attend games without knowing with certainty why investigators want to speak to those five Commodores. In both of those cases, people got hurt. In that context, Manziel looks awfully innocent.
Some other notes of interest:
Former South Panola standout Deon Mix, a great kid who always looked soft at the prep level, attacked his weight in the offseason and is drawing rave reviews at Auburn.
Alabama's heralded defensive line class is living up to the hype in fall camp.
Bobby Bowden and Phillip Fulmer want a spot on college football's playoff selection committee.
Major League Gaming? Oh, it could happen, and there might be big bucks to be had.
Kris Bryant keeps hitting home runs and tempting my Cubbie excitement.
The Brooklyn Nets have scoffed at the NBA's collective bargaining agreement. If the season started today, the Nets _ complete with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Darren Williams and Co. _ would be on the hook for an $87 million tax bill. Soon-to-be-NBA commish Adam Silver doesn't seem thrilled, and he just might take a page from the NFL and work to install a hard salary cap in his league down the road.
I took my son to see "Planes" Friday. It wasn't a tear-jerker like "Toy Story 3" or "Up," but it was good. He loved it. I loved the time with him. I'm thankful movies like "Planes" roll around so frequently. We saw the preview for "Frozen," due out around Thanksgiving, before the feature showing. He's already talking about our next outing. Life gets no better.
Finally, meet "Nick Beef" and learn how a chance encounter with the president of the United States changed a six-year-old's life and fueled years of conspiracy theories.