A&M retains law firm that represented Auburn and Cam Newton to help Manziel

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Kevin Sumlin wouldn’t comment extensively on it Monday, but Texas A&M is lawyering up as allegations that quarterback Johnny Manziel received money for signing memorabilia have surfaced over the past day.

A&M confirmed to the USA Today a previous report by the publication that the school has retained the services of Birmingham law firm Lightfoot, Franklin and White as legal counsel. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same firm that represented Auburn in 2010 when former quarterback (and eventual Heisman Trophy winner) Cam Newton had his eligibility come into question.

There are some minor similarities between the two cases, but more differences. Whereas Newton’s father, Cecil, faced allegations of essentially shopping his son’s playing services to Mississippi State, Manziel is directly accused by a report from “Outside the Lines” of signing memorabilia for money while he was in Miami this past January to attend the BCS championship game.

Where Manziel’s situation could more closely resemble Newton’s case is an additional report from ESPN that was published Monday claiming Manziel’s friend and personal assistant told an autograph broker that the redshirt sophomore would not sign autographs going forward without compensation. In fact, that would appear to violate the Cam Newton rule passed by the NCAA that extends the agent label to other individuals close to an athlete, such as family or friends.

If the report is true, that is. And it shouldn’t be assumed that the Manziel case will have a similar outcome.

A&M is certainly looking for one though. The law firm was able to help keep Newton from missing any games during the 2010 season.

Manziel was at practice on Monday and Sumlin made it clear he plans on preparing for the season as though his starting quarterback will be eligible.

Minnesota gives Fleck 1-year extension, plus raise

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck had his contract extended Wednesday by an additional year with a $1 million raise in annual salary, after the latest round of big spending by Big Ten rivals.

The new seven-year deal will run through the 2029 season, the university announced without releasing terms. Fleck will now make $6 million per year, a person with knowledge of the contract confirmed. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been finalized.

Last week, Nebraska hired Matt Rhule and Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell to put them in the top tier of head coach compensation in the conference. In terms of average annual value, the 42-year-old Fleck is eighth in the Big Ten behind Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Rhule, Fickell, Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. All seven of those coaches make $7 million or more per season.

The Gophers (8-4) play Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29. They’re 3-0 in bowl games under Fleck, who was hired away from Western Michigan in 2017.

Minnesota tied for second place in the Big Ten West Division this year, behind Purdue. Fleck is 43-27 overall with the Gophers, including 26-26 in conference play. They’re 0-6 against Iowa and 3-3 against Wisconsin, their primary rivals.

Fleck’s winning percentage is third-best in program history among coaches with 45 games or more, behind Henry Williams (1900-21) and Bernie Bierman (1932-41).

“What P.J. and his staff have done in a short amount of time is remarkable,” athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement distributed by the university. “He has recruited and developed some of the best student-athletes to ever play at Minnesota and his team continues to excel academically, athletically and socially.”

This is the fifth time in six years on the job that Fleck’s deal has been adjusted to keep up with the competition, as power conference coach contracts these days rarely have less than five years on them at any time. Minnesota extended his deal a year ago, too.

In that iteration of his contract, the termination fees Fleck would owe Minnesota if he were to hop to another program were bumped way up. Those numbers landed at $7 million in 2023, $5 million in 2024, $4 million in 2025 and $3 million in 2026. Details about those figures in the new deal were not immediately available.

Virginia players granted extra year of eligibility

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to Virginia players whose eligibility has expired in the aftermath of the slaying of three members of the team, the school confirmed.

Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were killed last month as they returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. A former player at the school, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is facing three counts of second-degree murder and other charges in the shooting. A fourth player, Mike Hollins, and student Marlee Morgan were injured in the shooting.

Virginia canceled its final two games of the season after the shooting, and the team and university community memorialized the victims in a nearly two-hour service on campus. Team members also traveled to each of the three funerals held for their teammates.