Sunday, November 19, 2017
Colleges

Winston investigation impacts FSU season

RECOMMENDED READING


In the grand scheme, it is not the most important question. Not when you think about the ugliness of the allegation, not when you think about the suffering of a young woman, not when you think about the scrutiny of a young man who is innocent until proven guilty.

There are bigger questions at hand, such as the role of the police in this botched investigation, and the importance of the DNA evidence, and the impact of celebrity on a case.

There is a lot to be answered about what happened on the morning of Dec. 7, 2012.

Eventually, however, you get to the questions that a great many Florida State fans care very much about: Could the accusations of sexual assault against Jameis Winston cost the Seminoles a national championship?

And should that matter?

Do not fool yourself. To a lot of FSU fans, even the high-minded ones who wish to see justice done no matter how painful it may be, that matters the way oxygen matters.

After all, this is the Magical Season, and all along, Winston has been the leader. This has been a year beyond FSU fans' wildest expectations, and from here you don't have to connect many dots to see FSU dancing in the confetti at its end.

Here's the thing, however. If Winston is charged and the charge is a felony, the redshirt freshman quarterback is very likely done. It wouldn't matter what the courts would eventually rule. It wouldn't matter how long you screamed "Due process." FSU's rules say simply that an athlete charged with a felony cannot compete. Case closed, as they say.

On Thursday there was chatter about language in the athletic department's code of conduct that would allow an athlete charged with a felony to compete under "extraordinary circumstances," the Orlando Sentinel reported, but it is difficult to believe FSU would dodge its own policies in such a high-profile case.

Now, couple that with a state attorney who seems a trifle ticked off that his office wasn't informed of this case until a few days ago. Willie Meggs has said he wants this over with quickly, and you don't get the feeling he would postpone charges until after the national title game.

A felony charge against Winston would change everything for FSU. Suddenly, the Seminoles would look a bit more vulnerable against a rival such as Florida. They would look a little less imposing in the ACC title game, probably against Duke.

And what would happen in the polls? No, nothing in the BCS formula accounts for a missing quarterback, whether it is because of injury or suspension. (Remember the 1999 Fiesta Bowl, when FSU played for the title with Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke out with a neck injury?)

On the other hand, there is a human component to the polls, too. Who knows how the voters — who produce two-thirds of the BCS formula — would react? Might they think that without Winston, FSU wouldn't be the same team? Might they think that Ohio State, unbeaten for two years, should slip ahead of FSU?

Consider this: Already Winston, 19, seems to have lost his momentum in the Heisman Trophy race. Almost one-third of the respondents to an ESPN poll said they wouldn't vote for him because of this scandal. Could that affect his team as well? Of course it could.

Sometimes justice is a balancing act. In this case, there is getting justice for the complainant, and there is getting justice for Winston, and it is up to Meggs and his staff to maneuver between two potential errors in reaching a resolution. One is for Meggs to drag his feet. The other is for him to be overzealous. When it comes to swift justice versus a rush to judgment, Meggs needs to get this right.

If he believes Winston is likely to be proven not guilty in court, should he weigh the impact of an arrest? And if he believes the evidence warrants charges, should he move more decisively?

It became trickier this week when it was revealed that test results showed Winston's DNA matched that from the accuser's underwear. No, that doesn't prove sexual assault; Tim Jansen, Winston's attorney, said the sex was consensual. Still, it begs more questions.

This one, for instance: Why did it take 11 months for police to compare Winston's DNA to the evidence collected in December?

Oh, for crying out loud. At FSU, the football team has always felt the Tallahassee Police Department picks on it, but how many ways can a police department botch an investigation? It now seems that not only wasn't Winston questioned, but neither was his roommate, who the accuser says was a witness.

The complainant says she was warned off by the police because of the importance of football in Tallahassee. The police say they did not pursue a case because she chose not to cooperate.

Put it this way: If you are comparing the Tallahassee police to a football program, it would be Idaho's.

You wonder: Was all this just coincidental bumbling by the Barney Fifes of the police? Or was it an effort to protect a star quarterback that backfired?

There are a thousand other questions, and frankly, they seem to be driving a lot of FSU fans crazy. Today there are those who have never met Winston who are willing to vouch for his character. There are those who blame the police, who blame the accuser, who blame the media for all the pesky headlines that are interrupting their chopping.

Much of this is frustration about the timing of the allegations. Much of this is the mind-set of a fan who fears all the success could be snatched away at any moment. It's an emotional time. I get that.

On the other hand, sexual assault is a serious charge. In recent years, it is a charge that has hit the programs of Vanderbilt, UConn, Navy, Northern Iowa, Illinois, Temple, Notre Dame and several others.

And when the quarterback is accused, it's bigger news. Of course the state attorney is going to have questions.

Everyone else, too.

Comments
No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

MIAMI — After Miami clinched the first Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division crown in program history, upset the then-No. 3 team in the country, claimed one of the top four spots in the College Football Playoff rankings and after many of the nat...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Florida State routs Delaware State 77-6

Florida State routs Delaware State 77-6

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher longed for his team to play in this type of game throughout its disappointing season.After Hurricane Irma caused a three-week layoff between FSU’s first two games, forcing it to play 11 in a row to finis...
Updated: 8 hours ago
A welcome return to dominance for the Florida defense

A welcome return to dominance for the Florida defense

GAINESVILLE — Chauncey Gardner wasn’t fooled. He saw UAB snap the ball. He saw the quarterback throw a screen. He saw the receiver fire a second pass downfield. Then a crowd of 84,649 saw the sophomore safety high-point the trick-play pass to earn hi...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Florida back on track with non-conference blowout of UAB

Florida back on track with non-conference blowout of UAB

GAINESVILLE — Florida’s next head coach — whether it’s odds-on favorite Chip Kelly or someone else — should be encouraged by Saturday’s 36-7 win over UAB.Not because the Gators (4-6) snapped a five-game losing streak by beating up on a 7-4 Blazers te...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Matt Baker’s takeaways from Florida-UAB

Matt Baker’s takeaways from Florida-UAB

1. A milestone Florida probably doesn’t want to celebrate: Johnny Townsend became the school’s all-time leading punter with his 232rd career punt. But Townsend has legitimately been one of the team’s MVPs.2. It took far too long, but UF’s tight ends ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Basketball: Gators romp; key player hurt for Hurricanes

Basketball: Gators romp; key player hurt for Hurricanes

GAINESVILLE — Behind a balanced effort and six double-figure scorers, No. 8 Florida dominated North Florida 108-68 Thursday. Junior KeVaughn Allen led the Gators with 18 points. The balanced scoring helped Florida (2-0) dismantle the Ospreys (0-4) fr...
Published: 11/16/17
College football week 12: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions

College football week 12: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions

The Times’ college football coverage team makes its picks for week 12 games:gametimeMartin Fennelly, @mjfennellyMatt Baker, @MBakerTBTimesTraci Johnson, @TBHomeTeamMike Sherman, @mikeshermanTom Jones, @tomwjonesJoey Knight, @TBTimes_BullsAgainst the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Rick and Tom podcast: Will Chip Kelly be the Gators’ next head coach?

Rick and Tom podcast: Will Chip Kelly be the Gators’ next head coach?

The Florida Gators are vetting Chip Kelly to potentially be their next head coach, but is he their first choice? In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones discuss what the future holds for the Gators and whether the coach will be Chip Kelly,...
Published: 11/15/17
College Football Playoff: Miami up to No. 3 in rankings, two-loss teams lurk

College Football Playoff: Miami up to No. 3 in rankings, two-loss teams lurk

Tuesday’s latest round of the College Football Playoff committee’s weekly rankings shows a clear path to a (relatively) controversy-free final four.Win out, and No. 1 Alabama, No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 5 Wisconsin are in. So, too, is the winner of No. 2...
Published: 11/14/17
Is Miami officially back? We let the turnover chains decide

Is Miami officially back? We let the turnover chains decide

MIAMI — A question that has been bubbling up all season crescendoed over the weekend after Miami’s 33-point thrashing of Notre Dame. Is the U back?"We are back," former Gov. Jeb Bush tweeted. "I don’t think anybody can say we’re not," receiver Braxto...
Published: 11/13/17