Johnny Manziel and his Heisman Trophy have brought prestige to Texas A&M and given its football program a shot in the arm, but university officials are now reversing field on the financial value Johnny Football has reaped for the school.
A school spokesman told Bloomberg.com the only money that can be directly attributed to Manziel is $20,000 from a football fundraising dinner where donors paid to sit at his table and a portion of the team’s $60,000 in royalties from the sale of football jerseys.
School officials explain that football tickets and suites were already sold out before the redshirt freshman quarterback burst on the scene last season. The school's radio, television and most sponsorship agreements already were locked into long-term contracts. The school claims booster donations already were largely tied to seat locations.
“People draw the conclusion that we make millions from Johnny winning the Heisman,” Athletic Director Eric Hyman said in an interview. “I’d say we’ve gotten more financial benefit from joining what’s widely perceived as the best football conference in the country and having a winning program.”
In the aftermath of Johnny Manziel winning the Heisman Trophy last December, a Texas A&M official glowingly said the overall financial impact on the university would be comparable to what Baylor had estimated a year prior based on Robert Griffin III’s Heisman triumph – an eye-popping $250 million dollars.
“Once Johnny won the Heisman, we went on the offensive,” Cook said at the time.
“We’re making a concrete effort to get people to walk through the front door and see Texas A&M as a world-class university,” added Cook, at the time the school’s marketing director and now a senior associate athletic director. “… This is truly unparalleled in terms of the broad scope of national media exposure A&M is receiving.”
The report also points to a Jan. 18 A&M press release proclaiming that Manziel's Heisman win carried a $37 million value in media exposure.
The athletic department's new spin downplaying Manziel's financial impact on A&M has created a fan outcry, causing Cook to write on the TexAgs website on Monday night, claiming there's "a lot of misinformation to clear up here…”
“Foremost, this story was not a result of a press release or any behind-the-scenes strategy. The reporter contacted us over six weeks ago with a thesis that Texas A&M is ‘making millions’ off Johnny Manziel. As our fans know well, we are in the middle of a perfect storm in which many things — SEC move, Coach (Kevin) Sumlin, Johnny, the Texas economy, enrollment growth, law school — have all come together to elevate the Texas A&M brand. Johnny has certainly been a major component and catalyst of our tremendous growth … No one denies this fact.
“The reporter asked us for all kinds of data — licensing, football ticket sales, donations, media valuations, etc — which we provided. We tried to communicate to the reporter that with so much change happening at one time, it’s hard to attribute our growth to any one factor. Many factors all are working together.
“Several weeks went by and the reporter asked me about the infamous (courtesy of the (Darren) Rovell tweets) football fundraiser dinner in which a donor paid $20k to sit at Johnny’s table. I explained the situation to the reporter, particularly that we had many football players who were sitting with donors that evening under the same pretenses. These dinners are quite commonplace in college athletics. As you read in the article, that $20k was entirely misrepresented. We all know that Johnny’s impact has truly been immeasurable.”