Manziel (2) stiff arms Alabama defensive back Deion Belue. John David Mercer, US PRESSWIRE
(USATODAY.com) - The law firm that helped keep Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton eligible during the 2010 season at Auburn has been hired by Texas A&M to do the same with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
Texas A&M senior associate athletic director Jason Cook confirmed an earlier USA TODAY Sports report that the school has retained the services of Birmingham law firm Lightfoot, Franklin and White as legal counsel on the matter. Lightfoot is the same firm that represented Auburn during the Cam Newton investigation, which surfaced during the 2010 season but did not result in formal allegations. Newton never sat out any games during the investigation into allegations that his father had sought payment from Mississippi State to deliver his son to that school.
Hiring Lightfoot represents the first major move by the school that would indicate it plans to fight for Manziel's eligibility in the wake of allegations that surfaced Sunday in an Outside the Lines report that he had agreed to sign autographs in exchange for a five-figure payment. The allegation, which was made by two unnamed people who claim to be aware of the arrangement, would be a violation of NCAA rules.
In many ways, the situation is similar to what Auburn experienced with Newton, whose father was alleged to have solicited payment from Mississippi State during the recruiting process. The ensuing NCAA investigation did not result in any formal allegations, and Newton never sat out of any games. According to the Birmingham News, Auburn's legal bills to Lightfoot, Franklin and White ran more than $170,000.