Another day, another report from ESPN citing evidence from an unnamed source that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel signed memorabilia in exchange for money.
In Tuesday's report, an East Coast autograph dealer said he paid Manziel $7,500 for signing approximately 300 mini- and full-sized A&M helmets on Jan. 11-12 in New Haven, Conn. The ESPN report said the broker played two cellphone videos for an ESPN reporter. But the video does not show Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, accepting money.
The report said the videos, taken without Manziel's knowledge, included a clip of Manziel saying "you never did a signing with me" and telling the broker that, if he were to tell anyone, Manziel would refuse to deal with him in the future.
The report also said the broker does not intend to cooperate with the NCAA investigation involving Manziel and memorabilia, which came to light in Sunday's Outside the Lines segment. In that report, two unnamed sources said Manziel agreed to sign memorabilia in exchange for a five-figure fee during his trip to the BCS National Championship Game in Miami. Both sources said they witnessed the signings but not an exchange of money.
Under NCAA rules, an athlete can sign memorabilia but cannot be compensated for doing so. An athlete who violates that rule could be declared ineligible. But it remains unclear if any of the unnamed sources cited by ESPN are willing to assist NCAA officials in their investigation.
A&M administrators, who have retained a law firm to deal with Manziel's eligibility issues, have acknowledged they are gathering facts but have had no other comment.
As accusations and uncertainties increase in the Manziel mess, here is a checklist of answers to common questions:
How much can the NCAA prove? That is unclear. But the issue will be at the heart of this case for an organization with no subpoena power and a need to corroborate media reports before assessing penalties. Thus far, the NCAA's case seems thin on reliable witnesses, with no smoking gun: a paper trail linking Manziel to payments.
What's the timetable for a resolution? No indication at this time.
Why would memorabilia dealers be reluctant to talk to the NCAA? Their business requires cooperation from high-profile athletes, now and in the future. By providing anti-Manziel evidence to the NCAA, they would kill any relationship with Manziel and could harm relations with lots of potential clients.
What about the law firm? A&M has enlisted the services of the same Birmingham, Ala., firm that Auburn used in 2010 to assist in protecting the eligibility of quarterback Cam Newton during a national championship season. If nothing else, the lawyers will help school administrators gather facts to help A&M make a better decision on whether Manziel should be allowed to play in the team's Aug. 31 opener against Rice if his eligibility status remains clouded.