Don't blink, or you may miss Johnny Football's suspension.
If there's any doubt the NCAA has become totally irrelevant, beyond ruling on such weighty issues as whether a former Marine who put his life on the line for his country should be allowed to play college football, it was the punishment doled out to the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
Texas A&M will have to get by without quarterback Johnny Manziel for two whole quarters in Saturday's season opener against mighty Rice.
Ohhh, the humanity.
Manziel, of course, allegedly got paid for his signature by some guys in the upstanding world of sports memorabilia, and the NCAA seized the opportunity to conduct an investigation that was straight from the Barney Fife crime-fighting manual. Though, come to think of it, even ol' Barn was allowed to carry a bullet in his shirt pocket. We're not sure we'd go even that far with these guys.
Enough of this charade.
It's time to shut down the NCAA, or at least strip it of whatever enforcement powers it supposedly has. After a series of unjust rulings over the past few years, not to mention the botched investigation of Miami over allegations that would've made Caligula blush, the organization has forfeited the right to be taken with any degree of seriousness.
While the Hurricanes are still waiting for a ruling in their case, some two years after former booster Nevin Shapiro went public with his scandalous claims, the NCAA moved with lightning speed to give Manziel a love tap on the wrist.
The ruling that came down this week, conveniently timed to coincide with the start of the season, found Manziel was guilty of an "inadvertent" violation — whatever that is — and would have to sit out the first 30 minutes of the season.
Heck, that doesn't even give him time to head to the casino or post another bit of debauchery on social media or complete his service at the Manning family's quarterback camp, the one he skipped out on early over the summer.
In all seriousness, this is not an indictment of Johnny Football. College athletes deserve to be paid for all the millions they bring in to their universities. It's beyond ridiculous that a player would have to sneak around to sell his own signature just to bring in a few well-deserved bucks.
But this much is clear: The schools supposedly governed by the NCAA need to set up a regulatory agency that has some real bite — and can rule with at least a modicum of fairness — or do away with the whole farce. We're guessing higher education, which already sold its soul in the name of big-time college athletics, would choose the latter.
At this point, we'd be fine with that.
Based on the way the Manziel case was handled, we're already there anyway.
Here's how the "investigation" went down:
"Hey, Johnny Football, did you do anything wrong?"
"Of course not," he replied, rolling his eyes.
"That's good enough for us. Case closed! Now get out there and make us some more money!!"
For the record, Texas A&M issued a statement saying the school and the NCAA "confirmed there is no evidence Manziel received money in exchange for autographs based on currently available information and statements by Manziel." But, in its usual bumbling fashion, the NCAA contradicted its own findings by apparently finding that Manziel apparently did SOMETHING wrong. Otherwise, why is he being suspended at all, even for a half? Why was he ordered to discuss his actions with his teammates? Why did Texas A&M agree to provide more guidance to its athletes about signing autographs?
The whole thing was beyond laughable.
Well, unless you're one of those subjected to the NCAA's wrath:
— Georgia Tech was stripped of its Atlantic Coast title in 2009 for what essentially amounted to a player receiving free clothing worth a few hundred dollars.
— Dez Bryant lost his final season at Oklahoma State for lying to investigators about a lunch with former NFL star Deion Sanders that didn't violate any rules.
— More seriously, when Penn State was going down in flames over the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the NCAA gleefully leaped on the carcass to impose a four-year bowl ban and a $60 million fine. Never mind that Sandusky would be sent to prison for the rest of his life for abusing children, and the guy who failed to report the allegations, former head coach Joe Paterno, is dead.
Yet, when Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was linked to allegations in 2010 that his father sought hundreds of thousands of dollars from a rival school to get his son to sign, the NCAA conducted an investigation that apparently involved nothing more than accepting Newton at his word when he said he had no idea what his family was up to. He was declared ineligible and reinstated — all within 24 hours — then went on to claim the Heisman Trophy and lead the Tigers to a national championship.
Now, another half-baked ruling from the kangaroo court.
Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963