Bad week for Heisman frontrunners

TUESDAY, NOV. 26, 2013

Despite off-the-field problems, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston hasn’t lost his legion of fans in Tallahassee. (Associated Press)
Despite off-the-field problems, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston hasn’t lost his legion of fans in Tallahassee. (Associated Press)

Clarity makes things easier this late in the college football season. But when it comes to the Heisman Trophy race, confusion is what we have.

The weekend may have been the worst for front-runners in recent memory, on the field and off.

Three quarterbacks – Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Baylor’s Bryce Petty and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota – crashed in lopsided losses.

The contender with solid numbers in his team’s rout, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, had a bad weekend for another reason.

On a weekend when he otherwise would have zoomed past competition and into a his-to-lose category, Winston finds himself in an off-field battle.

The investigation into sexual-assault claims begins a third week, and we learned on Saturday that a decision to charge Winston with a crime probably won’t happen until after Thanksgiving.

A quick review: The alleged assault occurred on Dec. 7, 2012. The alleged victim called the police that night to report the incident.

The Tallahassee Police contend it pursued the case until February and was told the victim no longer wanted to prosecute. At that point, the case was put on inactive status. The victim’s family insists she wanted the case to go forward but was pressured to drop it.

The case returned to the public eye when two media outlets earlier this month requested information.

Patricia Carroll, the attorney representing the victim, said last week that the victim had been told by a detective that Tallahassee is “a big football town and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she’ll be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable.”

When an attorney representing Winston issued a statement last Thursday saying the relationship was “consensual,” Carroll shot back at her statement on Friday.

“To be clear, the victim did not consent,” Carroll said. “This was rape.”

The Heisman Trust’s mission statement requires the winner to be about more than football excellence. It includes such language as “pursuit of excellence with integrity.” The award doesn’t specifically address legal issues, and one winner, Nebraska’s Johnny Rodgers, was convicted of a felony larceny charge for his part in robbing a gas station two years before winning the award in 1972.

Saturday, Winston threw four touchdown passes as Florida State beat Idaho 80-14. Afterward, he spoke only about the game.

“The football field is a sanctuary to me,” he said. “It’s like that for all my teammates. On that field, everything is zoned out. We focus, and we’re out there to get a victory.”

But there’s a chance Winston won’t get more opportunities. If he is charged, he could be suspended, and that would not only damage his Heisman chances but also FSU’s BCS standings.

Click here to comment on this story »