- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman said the school is doing all it can to support Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel while looking out for its own interests as the NCAA and the school investigate allegations he was paid to sign autographs.
The comments were made in a note sent Friday via email to members of the 12th Man Foundation, the school's booster organization represented by about 20,000 families.
"Everyone wants to know the status of our quarterback, Johnny Manziel," Hyman wrote. "As we have stated previously, our practice is to not discuss such matters publicly. Our foremost priority, regardless of the circumstances, is to protect and support our student-athletes while also upholding the integrity of the University and complying with NCAA rules and regulations.
"There simply is no blueprint for handling what Johnny and his family have gone through since December," the email continues. What we have done is surround Johnny with a support network of dedicated staff from the areas of administration, academics, scheduling, compliance, media relations, and even security to assist him during these unprecedented times.
"Texas A&M also has retained the services of one of the most respected legal firms in the country, Lightfoot, Franklin & White, to assist us. Any decisions we make regarding this situation will be based on an analysis of available facts. Be assured that we would like to reach a resolution as quickly as possible, but at this stage, we are not in a position to speculate on a specific timeline."
Hyman ended the email by saying, "in times like these, families come together ... And we will persevere, regardless of whatever comes our way."
ESPN's "Outside The Lines" has reported Manziel signed at least 4,400 autographs for brokers in three states on six different occassions in January alone. The NCAA has not commented on the status of its investigation. Manziel, whose family has retained its own lawyers, also has not commented since the story first broke on Aug. 4.
If the NCAA finds Manziel was compensated for his autograph, the quarterback's eligibility could be compromised for violating NCAA rules. Texas A&M could also face sanctions if it plays Manziel this season and the NCAA later finds evidence he used his on-field celebrity and accepted benefits.
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