Tahlequah Daily Press

College Sports

August 16, 2013

Autograph seekers could be sued by Texas A&M

If Johnny Manziel did violate NCAA rules by receiving money for signing autographs, a Texas law could put the people who allegedly paid him at risk of being sued by Texas A&M.

Christian Dennie, an attorney with Barlow Garsek & Simon, LLP in Fort Worth, Texas, writes on the firm’s website that the state of Texas passed legislation in 1987 to make “a person who violates a rule of a national collegiate athletic association ... liable for damages in an action brought by an institution.”

To be liable, the person must have known or reasonably should have known a rule was violated and the violation must lead to disciplinary action against the student or institution.”

Manziel, who became the first freshman to win the Heisman last year, is being investigated by the NCAA. ESPN has reported it is for possibly receiving payment from memorabilia brokers for signing autographs in Florida, Connecticut and Texas this year. If he is found to have been paid for signing, it could compromise is amateur status and put his eligibility at risk.

Manziel’s attorney, Jim Darnell of El Paso, Texas, has said the quarterback is cooperating with the investigation. Darnell has said he believes Manziel will be playing Aug. 31 when the Aggies open against Rice. Texas A&M plays Sam Houston State a week later and hosts Alabama on Sept. 14.

Dennie, who attended law school at Oklahoma, worked in its athletic department and is the author of College Sports Law Blog, told the AP on Thursday that if the NCAA finds reason to penalize Manziel and/or Texas A&M, the school could file a lawsuit in Texas even if Manziel is punished for transgressions committed in Florida or Connecticut.

“With personal jurisdiction, it’s more complicated than just where something happened,” Dennie said.

Other factors that could determine jurisdiction include, where negotiations took place, where products were sold (in-person or online) and where advertising for the products was done.

Texas A&M would have to claim damages in a lawsuit, which Dennie writes could include lost television revenues and lost ticket sales of regular season and post-season athletic events” and “reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.” But those are just suggestions.

“The statute itself doesn’t outline specifics for damages,” Dennie said.

Texas A&M could get creative, and even claim damage to its reputation that could be tied to revenues.

“He is a good kid. He is an honest kid,” Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “He has his heart in the right place. My mother wishes I was as nice a kid as Johnny when I was a sophomore in college.”

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