Frequently during discussions of potential NCAA violations, people will say (correctly) that NCAA rules are not the law. However, when it comes to the current Johnny Manziel imbroglio, if the Heisman winner ends up being ruled ineligible, Texas A&M may be able to use a Texas law to sue the autograph brokers that got Manziel in trouble.
In the words of Lee Corso, "not so fast my friend." The State of Texas passed legislation in 1987 that could hold the autograph hounds liable for their actions if they paid Manziel for his autograph in violation of NCAA legislation. Section 131.004 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code states "a person who violates a rule of a national collegiate athletic association adopted by this chapter is liable for damages in an action brought by an institution if (1) the person knew or reasonably should have know that a rule was violated; and (2) the violation of the rule is a contributing factor to disciplinary action taken by the national collegiate athletic association against the institution or a student at the institution." This would give Texas A&M University the authority to file suit against the autograph hounds if it or Manziel receives punishment from the NCAA. Accordingly, pursuant to Sections 131.006 and 131.007 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Texas A&M University's damages may include "lost television revenues and lost ticket sales of regular season and post-season athletic events" and "reasonable attorney's fees and costs." Certainly, if Manziel is not on the field for the Aggies, there could be substantial losses in revenue.
It's certainly odd that a state would legislate NCAA rules into civil code like this, but Texas is Texas. The timing of the law would seem to indicate this was a reaction to the misdeeds at SMU.
It's important to keep in mind that only one of the purported autograph sessions has taken place in the state of Texas, and if the autograph brokers aren't Texas citizens, this law may not be able to reach them.
A cursory googling indicates that Texas uses the most significant relationship test when determining conflicts of law, so if A&M did decide to sue autograph brokers, the court would use the law of the state with the most significant interest in the litigation. Maybe that's Texas, but maybe it isn't. It would depend on the particular details of the case.
HT: Bruce Feldman