East: Now fans can finally turn attention to the games

Associated Press file photo by Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle--Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel
Associated Press file photo by Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle--Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel

BY LES EAST

Is this any way to start a college football season?

Thankfully, the first wave of games arrived Thursday and all the uncertainty about the status of some important players is starting to dissipate, but these various personnel issues have gotten rather tiresome, haven’t they?

Finally, on Wednesday, the NCAA and Texas A&M announced an agreement whereby quarterback Johnny Manziel will sit out the first half of the Aggies’ opener against Rice on Saturday.

The NCAA had been investigating whether the reigning Heisman Trophy winner had received money for autographs, which would have been a violation of NCAA rules and potentially jeopardized his eligibility long term.

But the NCAA found no evidence that Manziel was paid, though he did get the slap on the wrist for a less serious rules violation — failing to tell people for whom he signed memorabilia that they shouldn’t sell it.

So student-athletes are not only barred from making money off signing their own name, they’re also responsible for policing those for whom they sign gratis.

You’d think delegating this responsibility to the student-athletes would free the NCAA to weigh in on more weighty matters, but it apparently has no interest in, say, a student-athlete pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault in a bar fight while being on probation for having pleading guilty to misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a minor, or another student-athlete being arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence.

Those matters were left up to the individual schools involved — LSU in regards to running back Jeremy Hill in the first instance and TCU in regards to quarterback Casey Pachall in the second.

It just so happens that the Tigers and Horned Frogs play each other in the Cowboys Classic on Saturday night in Arlington, Texas, and naturally the status of Hill and Pachall has been a topic of much interest, as has that of TCU star defensive end Devonte Fields, who was supposedly suspended for the first two games for an unspecified violation of team and university policy.

LSU coach Les Miles won’t give a straight answer about whether Hill will play. You might recall that Hill was reinstated from suspension about a nanosecond after a Baton Rouge judge ruled — conveniently on the first day of preseason camp — that Hill would not go to jail for violating probation.

Miles vowed then and has reiterated since that Hill would and has been receiving additional “internal” discipline. Whether that additional discipline includes not playing against the Horned Frogs won’t be known until either Hill enters the game or the game ends without him having done so.

The coach’s vagueness can be chalked up to Miles just being Miles, which in turn apparently has led to TCU coach Gary Patterson just being, well, Miles.

In an obvious case of “anything you can obfuscate, I can obfuscate better,” Patterson has refused to be definitive about how he plans to use his quarterbacks, though pretty much everyone expects him to start Pachall and perhaps use Trevone Boykin on occasion.

Patterson himself all but said Fields won’t play even though he will suit up and is listed as a co-starter on the depth chart — just to mess with Miles.

The funny part about this silliness is if you ask either coach how their preparation is complicated by the uncertainty surrounding the opposing players’ availabilities, they’ll be dismissive in talking about how they prepare for the opponent’s system and focus on what their own team does, and it really doesn’t matter who the opponent plays or doesn’t play.

But ask them to reveal who they will or won’t play, and all of a sudden it makes all the difference in the world if the other team knows who’s playing and who isn’t.

Fortunately, though, the season has arrived and we have ball games to focus on.

And now we can get back to what the college football season is supposed to be about — vilifying the BCS.