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Sign, sign, everywhere a sign for Manziel...

 Rules are rules.

There are plenty of rules that I have to follow that I don’t agree with. I can’t just take something out of a store because I can’t afford it. I can’t drive 100 mph down N.M. 4, even to pass a cyclist riding in the exact geometric center of the driving lane when the brand new bicycle lane, paved and pressed just for him with my tax dollars, is about 10 feet to the right (this has happened on more than one occasion) and he’s going about 2 mph.

I don’t advocate breaking the rules, even when the rules are stupid.

The rule that Johnny Manziel can’t get paid for his own signature is stupid. Manziel, “Johnny Football” to those who gave him that nickname and apparently don’t realize there are 21 other players on an average collegiate starting lineup, was busted recently for making money, about $7,500, by signing his name on some football gear.

Now, nobody’s every offered me a nickel, plug or otherwise, for signing my name. I freely admit I’m jealous of that. I wouldn’t turn down 75 cents for my signature, let alone 7-1/2 Gs.

Apparently, neither would Manziel.

The problem here, however, is that NCAA athletes are prohibited from doing pretty much exactly that. There are those on the blogosphere who played “gotcha” with the NCAA for selling Johnny Manziel jerseys on its website when Mr. Football himself couldn’t sell out at a much lesser clip.

Doesn’t matter.

That’s a rule. It’s not a new rule, either.

It’s a rule Johnny Manziel either A) ignored, or B) was woefully ignorant of. Based on Manziel’s wacky behavior since winning the Heisman Trophy last year, I would have to guess B. Nothing that he’s done since that time exactly screams scholar-athlete.

Is the rule a good one? No.

As with so many other stones on the path of collegiate athlete, this one was laid with the best of intentions. The NCAA didn’t want student-athletes to be indebted to shady characters for accepting money — there is reason to believe this still happens quite a bit, but the rule is there nonetheless.

I’m not here to justify the rule. It’s almost beyond justification, particularly after the NCAA went nuts trying to bust a women’s golfer at a West Coast Conference school for illegally washing her car on campus with a school’s garden hose under a similar rule.

But if the NCAA doesn’t go after Manziel, it will have completely and irreparably destroyed its own reputation. The appropriate sentence would be a year off from athletic competition, minimum, for this violation.

It’s unlikely that any kind of punishment would make it sink it Manziel’s head that he did something wrong, but the NCAA must do something or watch whatever credibility it has left go down the drain.

Like so much suds off a washed car.