On Wednesday, an ongoing investigation came to light that linked Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston with a Dec. 7, 2012 sexual assault case in Tallahassee.
No person has been charged with a crime, and attorney Tim Jansen, who represents Winston, told FOXSports.com that Tallahassee police told him the case was closed in February. But a Florida State athletic department release on Wednesday night revealed that was not the case.
“We are aware of a matter that was investigated by the Tallahassee Police Department almost a year ago,” the statement said. “Because the investigation has not been closed by TPD, we cannot comment further at this time.”
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Could a link to an open investigation, no matter how tenuous the link may be, derail Winston’s Heisman hopes? The Heisman, after all, is a perception award as much as anything.
Many voters consider Winston the Heisman front-runner — ahead of Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Alabama’s A.J. McCarron — but they are also cautiously watching and waiting to see what develops in the next few weeks before casting their ballots.
“Everything depends on what kind of information comes out,” said Chris Huston, publisher of Heismanpundit.com. “If it’s a serious thing, then I would say he would not be able to survive these kind of charges. If it turns out there’s nothing to it or a he-said, she-said, or if it seems flimsy, I don’t think it will affect it.”
Huston, who is a Heisman voter, is taking a wait-and-see approach. He’d much rather judge the quarterbacks on their gameday performances.
But if the investigation continues and more information comes out about Winston, that could hurt both him and Manziel, who was arrested in 2012 and later pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failing to properly identify himself to an officer after a fight. He also faced allegations of accepting money for autographing memorabilia and was suspended for half a game this season as part of an agreement between him, Texas A&M and the NCAA.
“That could be good for McCarron,” Huston said.
Heisman polls taken before the allegations surfaced about Winston on Wednesday seemed to favor the redshirt freshman as the front-runner.
A USA TODAY poll on Monday of the Gannett papers’ 30 writers gave Winston 19 first-place votes and Manziel seven. And in ESPN’s poll on Tuesday, Winston received 13 of 16 first-place votes. Manziel received two first-place votes and McCarron had one.
Heisman voters who were contacted Thursday believe Winston remains a strong candidate.
Cory McCartney is a Heisman voter and compiles a weekly Heisman watch for FOXSports.com. McCartney said he puts a heavy emphasis on a player’s on-field success.
“I don’t believe part of my responsibilities as a Heisman voter are to weigh what happens off the field, unless it winds up costing a player the opportunity to perform on it,” McCartney said. “I voted for Cam Newton despite the cloud hanging over him and for Johnny Manziel despite his having been arrested.”
Said Gentry Estes of 247Sports: “From everything I’ve read, there are few details available and no charges have been filed at this point. I’m a believer that someone is innocent until proven guilty in our society. So it does not impact my opinion as it stands now.”
Charlie Ward, who won the Heisman Trophy for FSU in 1993, said he considers Winston to be among the top contenders for his vote along with McCarron and Manziel. Ward emphasized that this is a learning opportunity and a chance for Winston to be truthful.
“At this point it is an allegation and a great learning experience for him and those that follow him,” Ward said. “God has provided an opportunity for him to glorify him by being truthful whatever the truth is. He is still a quality football player and distractions are part of the game.”