Throughout the entire autograph-gate saga, Texas A&M’s silence has been…well, interesting to say the least. Louisville, South Carolina, and Ohio State publicly and openly defended their star players against accusations of autograph selling, but Texas A&M officials remained largely silent (other than an article from March of this year).
That silence came to an end yesterday when Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp publicly shared both his support for Johnny and his disdain for Darren Rovell’s reporting tactics in an e-mail to members of the University system. Pertinent content is shared below.
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.
I look forward to the start of this football season and am confident that we'll once again exceed expectations during our second season in the SEC. We should all be very proud of what Coach Sumlin and his staff are accomplishing here in Aggieland.
In order to make sense of Sharp’s confidence, it’s important to know who he is. Sharp is an alumnus of A&M with a long and illustrious career in Texas politics, having been responsible for the implementation and oversight of such governmental functions as the Texas Lottery Commission, the Texas Tomorrow College Fund, and many others. Sharp is an experienced administrator who, as we’ve seen, isn’t afraid to speak his mind. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that he backed up his earlier comments on Johnny Manziel with a formal statement.
A few quick thoughts:
- I have no doubt in my mind that this letter was vetted and reviewed by our hired lawyers from Lightfoot, Franklin and White, which means that this letter can and should be considered our final and official response to allegations.
- John Sharp publicly called out Darren Rovell and questioned his credibility. I doubt that he and Rovell will be having lunch anytime soon. I was somewhat surprised to see that Rovell didn’t respond via twitter yesterday, but he was busy doing other things.
- Sharp was very specific to name Drew Tieman as the main instigator for this story, and I think that reflects the research done by our lawyers and compliance staff. The original article by Darren Rovell indicates Tieman was the broker involved, but doesn’t name him as a source. It’s obvious now that Texas A&M feels Tieman was feeding Rovell information. And in the minds of A&M officials, it’s important to question the credibility of Tieman as the main fact provider in this story.
- This quote: "It is surprising that the nation's largest sports channel would support publication with this lack of corroboration" creates an awkward and unique dynamic between Texas A&M and ESPN, who’s more than likely going to be around our campus all season long. I don’t mind it, and I really appreciate the fact that Sharp came out and said it, but I just wonder what the dynamic of the planning meeting between A&M and ESPN officials for Gameday segments is going to be like.
So I think it’s fair to say that as far as A&M is concerned, this story is over. We’ve done our due diligence in investigating allegations, and we’ve found nothing to give credibility to the story, and in fact we’ve found so little credible evidence that folks at our highest level are willing to openly question the investigation process in the first place. I’m now 100% convinced that Johnny will start on August 31.
Yesterday, Chancellor Sharp spoke with KBTX's Steve Fullhart, and continued his strong support for Johnny...going as to proclaim Johnny innocent of all charges. The main quote of interest is below:
"Not at all, not at all. I know he's innocent. I know that he didn't do what they accused him of doing, and I think that it's time that we, once we knew what the facts are and we know the facts...and I've seen what everybody else has seen now, and the rest of the country is going to get to see that before it's over with. It was a bunch of hype journalism.
Strong words from John Sharp...and I find it interesting, and incredibly encouraging that he's using the term "innocent".
So now the question becomes...what information is John Sharp privy to that we're not? It's obvious there is something out there, some sort of "smoking gun" giving him the confidence to make such strong statements. What is it?