Big-time college football! Where a university system chancellor can be indistinguishable from a Paul Finebaum caller. Administrator John Sharp sent out a bizarre screed that decried the biased and untrustworthy media, and declared Johnny Manziel innocent of all the allegations against him, before admitting he hadn't actually spoken to Manziel about it.
On Wednesday, chancellor John Sharp sent out the following email to a group of local businessmen and former students, in response to a series of reports claiming Manziel had repeatedly accepted money to sign autographs:
As you are all aware, our Heisman Trophy winning, freshman quarterback has been very popular this summer! I hope you saw that I recently supported him at the opening of the Texas A&M School of Law in Fort Worth.
While I did confirm that it was a personal view, my motivation was based on the fact we have had ongoing and productive dialogue with the NCAA during their investigation, as required. However, some members of the media have chosen to declare #2 guilty with no evidence whatsoever.
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.
The reference to Rovell being duped cites a story on escort services affected by the NBA lockout, for which he quotes a teenager pretending to be a pimp. (Hey Sharp—how about linking us?) While that did happen, and was hilarious, Sharp ignores the co-byline of Justine Gubar, a respected producer in ESPN's investigative unit. It ignores the follow-up stories on Manziel, which cite other memorabilia dealers making the same claims. It ignores Wright Thompson's "half dozen sources and counting" that claim personal assistant "Uncle Nate" Fitch ran a Johnny Manziel autograph business.
Sharp also notes that Drew Tierman was arrested for marijuana possession, as if that's anything other than an ad hominem smear. (Manziel has pleaded guilty to a crime of his own, so call it a wash.)
In all, Sharp is tearing down the messengers without addressing the substance of the message. One year in the SEC, and A&M's chancellor is acting like a TigerDroppings poster.
College Station TV channel KBTX caught up with Sharp after his email became public.
Fullhart: "How do you know he didn't do it?"
Sharp: "I just know. I've seen things that other folks can't see. And it didn't happen. It did not happen."
Fullhart: "Have you heard from him as well, straight from his mouth?"
Sharp: "Don't have to. I don't have to hear from him. I don't have to hear from him. I can hear from his original accusers and what they're saying now. Didn't happen, and I hate it that he would go through it, and I think we all ought to look at it from a point of view of, what if that were our son that was going through that? So take your time look at everything that happened and I don't have any doubt that Johnny Manziel is innocent of stuff that they were throwing at him."
I do have sympathy for Sharp. The correct response to the claims against Manziel is "What do I care if he was making money off his own name? He's a superstar and deserves to get paid that small fraction of what he's worth, and the NCAA's rules are horrible and exploitative and the whole system sucks." But of course he can't say that. But in the meantime, "I just know" is probably not the most satisfying defense.