Commentary | Peter Warrick, Johnny Manziel both victims of NCAA identity theft

adell@bradenton.comAugust 7, 2013 

Peter Warrick and Johnny Manziel share a bond.

Their college careers began more than a decade apart and they come from socioeconomic backgrounds worlds apart. But they are linked.

When Warrick and Manziel signed their letters of intent to play football for Florida State and Texas A&M, respectively, the NCAA stole their innocence.

When they competed in venues that housed their sport, the monolithic guardian of college football took ownership of their names.

It's an unfortunate truth.

Manziel won the Heisman Trophy last year as a freshman.

Warrick, who led Southeast to state football and basketball titles, was denied the Heisman by getting involved in an incident that, on the surface, made little sense.

They were both caught up in a world that overwhelmed them, though they didn't see it.

Manziel doesn't own his name, just like Warrick and others who have passed through the sacred football fields of Manatee County before and since -- not after the NCAA made them indentured servants.

Manziel is under investigation for allegedly receiving money for signing sports memorabilia.

The figure being floated around is that he was paid $7,500.

He comes from a family with money and, if true, he did a stupid thing.

But if he was a college student playing a violin, he could sell his name for anything.

Former college football players get part of their names back when their eligibility is used up, but the pillaging of Warrick and others continue. Sports video games that

bear their likenesses make money off them with a tidy sum going to the NCAA.

There is a lawsuit that might bring this profiteering to a halt. It is grinding its way through the courts.

Warrick saw his future earnings take a big hit when an enamored clerk in a clothing store gave him clothes at an unauthorized discount price during his senior year at FSU in 1999.

It amounted to about $400, and the law was broken. His actions cannot be brushed aside, but it is not that simple. One of his teammates said Warrick had to borrow clothes to go out on the weekends.

It still doesn't excuse theft, but the NCAA and FSU were making millions off him. So who gets robbed and who is the robber?

It created a firestorm that cost Warrick the Heisman and the Biletnikoff award that goes to the country's top receiver. Win the Heisman and you can live off the speaking requests alone for the rest of your life.

Compare that to what Warrick got in the Dillard's caper.

Check out some of the popular college video games. When you see No. 9 running through college defenses and scoring touchdowns, ask yourself if that's not Warrick.

He doesn't receive a dime because they stole his identity.

Look at the cover of EA Sports Xbox NCAA Football 13 and ask yourself if you don't see Denard Robinson, the former Michigan quarterback and arguably one of the most electrifying players in the game last season.

He won't receive a dime because you can't prove it's him. They stole his identity.

You may not like Manziel and call him reckless, but it's hard to argue that he can't use his name to make money while others can cash in on it.

What would Texas A&M's No. 2 jersey be worth if didn't belong to Manziel? Who would want to see the Aggies if he didn't play for them?

The NCAA tells players you can have your name, but don't make money. It's a reason NCAA Executive Director Mark Emmert earns $1.7 million per year, and Division I football is a billion-dollar business.

Long ago, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) preached this philosophy, but it now allows athletes to use their names to sell endorsements.

It didn't corrupt the athletes as some predicted and allowed many to pursue their dreams to the fullest because they didn't have to hold down a job to pay basic living expenses.

The NCAA doesn't see it that way.

It is blinded by its own greed.

Alan Dell, Herald sportswriter, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at@ADellSports.

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