TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY In what may be the most definitive statement from a Texas A&M official regarding Aggie football star Johnny Manziel, System Chancellor John Sharp said he is certain the Heisman winner is innocent of the charges of taking money for autographs.
Following an event Thursday at Kyle Field's Zone Club announcing an agreement for local use of A&M facilities in exchange for money to renovate Kyle, Sharp said he had seen enough evidence to conclude Manziel did not violate NCAA regulations.
"I know he's innocent," Sharp said. "I know that he didn't do what they accused him of doing."
ESPN originally reported that Manziel was under investigation by the NCAA. The network has gone on to quote anonymous sources who believe the redshirt sophomore accepted money from autograph brokers in exchange for his signatures on memorabilia. If that were to be proven, Manziel would face penalties including loss of eligibility.
In an e-mail newsletter Wednesday, Sharp criticized ESPN and people who "have chosen to declare # 2 guilty with no evidence whatsoever."
Head Coach Kevin Sumlin has stopped addressing Manziel's off-field issues, deferring to athletics department representatives, who have similarly stayed quiet. Lawyers have been hired by the university and Manziel's family to look into the allegations.
Manziel was the first freshman and second Aggie to win the Heisman Memorial Trophy.
Texas A&M opens its 2013 season against Rice at Kyle Field on August 31. They have earned top ten rankings in numerous pre-season polls and publications.
Transcript of the conversation between Chancellor Sharp and News 3:
Steve Fullhart: "The letter that came out yesterday and your comments concerning Manziel have gotten a little bit of play. Any regrets at all on making the comments?"
John Sharp: "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.
Fullhart: "How do you know he didn't do it?"
Sharp: "I just know. I've seen things that other folks can't see. And it didn't happen. It did not happen."
Fullhart: "Have you heard from him as well, straight from his mouth?"
Sharp: "Don't have to. I don't have to hear from him. I don't have to hear from him. I can hear from his original accusers and what they're saying now. Didn't happen, and I hate it that he would go through it, and I think we all ought to look at it from a point of view of, what if that were our son that was going through that? So take your time look at everything that happened and I don't have any doubt that Johnny Manziel is innocent of stuff that they were throwing at him."
Fullhart: "And if that is the case, should there be repercussions at some level? Can you even foresee that? Obviously there is a free press in this country. They may make a mistake…"
Sharp: "No, I believe in the free press. I think you ought to be able to call anybody anything you want to, and that's what happens. It happens in politics, and it happens in everything else. Fortunately for us, 99.9 percent of the press is great and responsible, especially you. We shouldn't have any gripes about it, but when we see something that, in our mind, is egregious, we shouldn't just sit back and say we're going to take that slap in the face at Texas A&M or we're going to allow one of ours to take that slap in that face. We're going to speak out, and in my opinion, that's what I did."