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It is that time of year. You can’t avoid it. Here in Oklahoma, especially, the next three months of Saturdays are planned around it.

College football is a cultural phenomenon, and everybody across the country has their own take about how to experience it.  Even those who are not interested in the sport are affected. Weddings, housework and other functions of life are determined when kickoff is scheduled.

Many of you are excited, looking forward to this time of year, which means you also are aware of a major decision that occurred this week, involving one of the more popular figures in college football this season.

On Wednesday, Aug. 28, the NCAA handed down a half-game suspension to Johnny Manziel because the Texas A&M quarterback allegedly received payment for signing autographs. Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner is benched for the first half of the Aggies game against Rice this Saturday.

Many have shared their opinion about this ruling. Most who are not A&M fans seem to be disgusted, thinking the punishment was too light. Those who follow college football are aware of recent penalties that were much harsher for similar offenses.

Ohio State was put on a one-year bowl suspension because eight players sold Buckeye memorabilia. This kind of penalty shocked ESPN reporter Mark Schlabach, who said at the time, “To be honest, I’m surprised the NCAA hit the Buckeyes as hard as it did. I figured The Ohio State University was immune from the kind of punishment that might cripple a program in recruiting and severely sully its once-pristine reputation.”

Even closer to home, Dez Bryant, former Oklahoma State Cowboy and current Dallas Cowboy, could not play the majority of his final year at OSU because he lied to an investigator about a visit he had with NFL star Deion Sanders. To be clear, the visit itself was not against NCAA rules. No financial benefits were obtained.

The lesson learned in Bryant’s case, perjury is a serious offense, even in the eyes of the NCAA. Inappropriate financial gain, though… that punishment has some variance.

I do not know how the NCAA comes to its conclusions on how to punish athletes and athletic programs when they violate the rules. I know I don’t have all the details in the cases I mentioned (Bryant, Ohio State and Manziel). But I can give you my impression, and this may enlighten many sports fans… Money is a major factor on all decisions made. And when I say “all,” I mean “ALL.”

Want to know why it is difficult for a playoff system to materialize in “Big Boy” college football? Want to know why many athletic programs leave conferences and join others? Want to know why some conferences won’t consider some athletic programs? Want to know why Notre Dame has remained independent in football?

And though no one wearing the NCAA logo will come out and admit it, money even factors in penalties. Why did Manziel only get a half-game suspension instead of a 10-game suspension or a bowl-ban? Because College Football and those who financially benefit from the cultural phenomenon would be affected if the sport’s current most popular player was booted weeks before all the hoopla begins.

Of course, I could be wrong regarding Manziel. Keep in mind, I did say this is my impression. Yet one thing is certain. Money tends to corrupt, and the love of it, as the Bible tells us, is the root of many evils.

I don’t mean to tarnish the enthusiasm of sport purists. Those who know me know I am sports nut and have my own versions of athletic utopia. If nothing else, please know that some of those in charge of the games we love don’t always have the most sincere intentions.

Enjoy the season, football fans! Even those of you in College Station.