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What the Paternos’ critique of the Freeh report didn’t do, and what it did

Joe Paterno AP

Like most of you, I’m sure, I already had an idea of what the Paterno family and its accompaniment of “independent analyses” would say in its critique of the Freeh report.

The family has, in unapologetic fashion, defended Joe Paterno‘s name and legacy over the past year after he was fired from Penn State following decades of success and crucified by the court of public opinion for his actions — or inactions — in the Jerry Sandusky scandal. While the core of the Sandusky story revolves around the utter disbelief that a serial pedophile could go years preying on young boys without ever being stopped, the decision on what to make of Paterno’s role in it all has manifested into one of the most — if not the most — polarizing angles.

So when the lengthy report was released Sunday morning, I wasn’t surprised to find phrases such as “rush to injustice”, while the Freeh report was deemed a solidification of the “false public narrative about Joe Paterno.”

But false, honest, or somewhere in between, the multiple narratives about Paterno in this entire mess are as permanent as the mark he left on his former program and university. It’s been over a year since the Harrisburg Patriot-News broke the Sandusky story wide open and people’s opinions one way or the other are pretty much set. In that regard, the Paterno family’s retort to the Freeh report accomplishes nothing.

The arguments range. From Paterno’s apparent inability to comprehend sodomy “as a 72-year-old football coach who was untrained in the complicated, counterintuitive dynamics of child sexual victimization and who came from a traditional background where even consensual sex was not discussed”, to being straight-up “fooled” by Sandusky, the critique implies that Paterno was prude enough to make Ned Flanders look like a proponent of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.

Yet, in his grand jury testimony, Paterno sounded up to speed on what happened between Sandusky and Victim 2 in 2001 when then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary walked in to the showers of the Lasch building on Penn State’s campus. McQueary then relayed what he saw to Paterno.

“He said he had something that he wanted to discuss. I said come on over to the house. He had seen a person, not an older but a mature person who was fondling or whatever you might call it.

“It was a sexual nature.”

The question is whether that understanding was the same in 2001 at the time of the conversation. The lack of documentation of any sort for that meeting has created one of the great mysteries of this story.

Even with documentation, the critique battles the theory that Paterno knew of Sandusky’s pedophilia and participated in a cover-up. One of the long-standing focal points of Paterno’s role in this story has been the email from Athletic Director Tim Curley to Vice President Gary Schultz and President Graham Spanier dated Feb. 27, 2001:

“After giving it some more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday — I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps.”

At first glance, it would appear Paterno altered a course of action in dealing with Sandusky that originally included informing the Department of Public Welfare. The critique says that email was misrepresented, that a plan to inform proper authorities was still in place, just delayed.

Those are just two examples of many, but does that change your mind about Paterno for better or worse? It doesn’t for me. For example, the exact date and time Paterno met with Curley so as to not “ruin his weekend” to relay what he heard from McQueary doesn’t change the fact that, by the critique’s own admission on the second page, Paterno appeared to wash his hands of a situation he shouldn’t have.

(1) Joe Paterno never asked or told anyone not to investigate fully the allegations in 2001, (2) Joe Paterno never asked or told anyone, including Dr. Spanier and Messrs. Curley and Schultz, not to report the 2001 incident, and (3) Joe Paterno never asked or told anyone not to discuss or to hide in any way the information reported by Mr. McQueary.

Paterno’s involvement in any degree is a paradox. On one hand, he is not the center of the Sandusky story; rather, he is a link in a chain of key individuals who are accused of doing less than we as a society claim we would have done if placed in a similar situation. On the other hand, Paterno was not just a football coach. Few, if any, individuals in college athletics have become the face of an institution like Paterno was. To suggest that he did not have power or influence beyond the typical head coach is nothing short of naive. 

In addition to his spot atop Penn State’s chain of command, the other thing Paterno never lost was his mind. Though his body deteriorated with age, and his battle with cancer was eventually lost in early 2012, his grey matter was as sharp toward the end of his life as it was in his prime. This was universally known and witnessed.

With that power and brilliance comes accountability for what happens while you’re in charge, whether or not it’s in your area of expertise. It’s admittedly a unique situation. The Sandusky scandal is not about Paterno, yet it sort of is. The family’s response to the Freeh report mirrors that assessment even though it dismisses any sort of accountability Paterno should have had.

While the critique doesn’t do anything to persuasively change the public’s opinion about Paterno — it’s certainly not for a lack of effort — it does reasonably poke holes in the Freeh report’s strategy in coming up with its findings. Of the hundreds of people interviewed for the report, neither Curley nor Schultz, who are facing perjury charges and clearly among the most important people in this case, were. Paterno passed away early last year after a battle with lung cancer. His voice, the most important in this topic, is forever silenced.

The portion of the report written by Dick Thornburgh does a good job of dissecting the documentation used by the Freeh report to uncover holes in logic. The portion written by Jim Clemente offers compelling, psychology-based counterarguments to the perception that someone had to have known about Sandusky’s pedophilia.

The Freeh report was never entirely conclusive, and it certainly wasn’t intended to be used as a resource for the NCAA to levy punishment on Penn State’s football program, but in the end, the Paterno family’s response just doesn’t do much other than expose the Freeh’s blemishes while trying to hide Paterno’s.

The thing is, you can’t. Joe Paterno was a human being capable of doing great things for others, as well as doing wrong. He had a statue outside Beaver Stadium and a mural with, at one point, a halo painted over his head. But Paterno was not a god, nor was he a saint. The critique transparently attempts to restore Paterno’s image as such, and it’s bogus.

Paterno is just like you and me. To believe otherwise is only setting yourself up for massive disappointment.

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WR Devin Lucien goes from Bruins to Sun Devils

UCLA v Washington Getty Images

As it happens, Devin Lucien‘s transfer will be an intraconference and an intradivision one.

Overnight, ESPN.com‘s Joe Schad first reported and the Arizona Republic‘s Doug Haller subsequently confirmed, Devin Lucien revealed that he has decided transfer to Arizona State and finish out his collegiate career playing for the Sun Devils.  The move, which has yet to be confirmed by ASU, comes nearly a month after the wide receiver decided to leave UCLA.

According to the player, a current Sun Devil factored into his decision.

As noted in the tweet above, Lucien will enter ASU as a graduate transfer, which means he will be eligible to play immediately in 2015.  And, with the Sun Devils looking for help in replacing Jaelen Strong’s lost production (82-1,165-10) and losing Cameron Smith (41-596-6) to a March knee injury that will cost him the entire 2015 season, having Lucien onboard will certainly aid in that endeavor.

Last season, Lucien’s 29 receptions were second on the team, although he averaged just 7.8 yards per catch.  During summer camp leading up to the 2014 season, Lucien sustained a head injury in practice serious enough that he was taken to a local hospital via ambulance.  Released the following day, Lucien passed a concussion test and returned to practice less than a week later.

In 2013, Lucien overcame a back injury to start three of the 13 games in which he played, catching 10 passes for 208 yards. The year before, he was the team’s third-leading receiver (10-188) before a broken clavicle knocked him out for the remainder of the regular season.

Lucien’s loss to UCLA, on the other hand, will be a minimal one as, outside of him, the Bruins will return their top seven leading pass catchers.

The Bruins, incidentally, will host the Sun Devils Oct. 3 of this year.  Those two programs, UCLA in 2011 and 2012 and ASU in 2013, combined to win the first three Pac-12 South titles before Arizona wrested the the division crown away in 2014.

 

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Ex-Vol Dewayne Hendrix moves on to Pitt

Chattanooga v Tennessee

Four months after bolting Rocky Top, erstwhile Tennessee defensive lineman Dewayne Hendrix has found himself a new football home .

Monday evening, Hendrix announced that he has decided to transfer to Pittsburgh and continue his playing career with the Panthers.  In addition to Pitt, Hendrix had considered Illinois, Iowa State and Northern Illinois.  He had taken visits to the Panthers, Huskies and Cyclones.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Hendrix will have to sit out the 2015 season.  Beginning in 2016, however, the lineman will have three years of eligibility remaining.

Hendrix played his high school football in the state of Illinois, but apparently Hendrix felt more comfortable with the situation in Pittsburgh.  Certainly the Panthers’ new head coach, Pat Narduzzi, was pumped over the player’s decision, despite the official decision not having been made public at the time of his tweet.

Back in mid-December, UT head coach Butch Jones announced that Hendrix was one of two Vols planning to leave the program. A search for a greater opportunity at meaningful playing time was part of the impetus for the decision.

A four-star member of UT’s 2014 recruiting class, Hendrix was rated as the No. 5 strongside defensive end in the country; the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Illinois; and the No. 78 recruit over all by Rivals.com. He played in seven games as a true freshman last season.

Hendrix is the second former UT player to transfer to Pitt in the past two months, joining quarterback Nathan Peterman.

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Miss. St.’s Deshun Dixon arrested on drunk-driving charge

A young girl looks at a Danish fans drin AP

With another weekend in the books, another college football player has gotten the proverbial book thrown at him.

The Starkville Daily News is reporting that Mississippi State’s Deshun Dixon was arrested over the weekend and charged with driving under the influence.  The arrest occurred very early Sunday morning, although no further details have been made available.

MSU’s only comment on the development is no comment.

Dixon, the younger brother of MSU all-time leading rusher Anthony Dixon, spent three years playing minor league baseball (2010-12) before joining the Bulldogs as a walk-on this spring.  He’s currently listed as a freshman “athlete” on the program’s online roster.

In addition to Anthony Dixon, Deshun Dixon is also the brother of current MSU tight end Rashun Dixon.  That particular Dixon spent six years playing minor league baseball before joining the Bulldogs last July.

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VIDEO: Oregon athletes say thank you to Marcus Mariota

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On the field, no one did it better under center for Oregon than Marcus Mariota.

He was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection each of the last two years, and left the Ducks holding the all-time school record for, among others, total offense, passing yards and passing touchdowns.  He stands as the conference’s all-time leader in total touchdowns and the league’s single-season leader for passing yards and passing touchdowns.  He staked his claim to a slew of awards including the Walter Camp, Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, Manning and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm as well as being the first-ever UO player to be the recipient of the Heisman Trophy.

Off the field he may have been even more impressive as there might not have been a more likable or respected player in all of college football.

And, for all of that, the university is grateful.  In particular, his former fellow student-athletes at the school, who put together a “thank you” video and released a couple of days before Mariota is expected to be selected no lower than No. 2 in the NFL draft.

 

Simple and extremely well done.  Bravo, young men and women.

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SEC coaches won’t be permitted to accept Harbaugh’s camp invite

Michigan Football Spring Game

Not that we really expected any different outcome, but coaches in the Southern part of the country won’t be permitted to accept Jim Harbaugh‘s offer of Northern hospitality.

Late last week, in the midst of criticism from others in his profession over the controversial move of guest coaching at satellite camps across the country, Harbaugh took to Twitter to invite all college football coaches to a Michigan camp this summer.  Even as “guest coaches,” SEC coaches are barred by their conference from attending such camps more than 50 miles from their campus and, unfortunately, that will remain the case.

Well that’s a buzzkill.  The thought of Nick Saban or Les Miles or Steve Spurrier guest coaching in Ann Arbor is enough to make a grown man giddy.

Oh well, maybe next year — unless that loophole’s closed across the board as some are pushing for, that is.

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FSU gets Winston accuser’s lawsuit moved from Orlando to Tallahassee

Jameis Winston; David Cornwell AP

After seeking and failing to get a lawsuit filed against tossed, at least for now, Florida State has claimed one legal victory.

The Associated Press reported Monday that the lawsuit filed against the university by Erica Kinsman, the former FSU student who accused Jameis Winston of raping her, has been moved from a federal court in Orlando to one in Tallahassee.  The U.S. District Judge in Orlando, Gregory Presnell, agreed with FSU’s contention that he had no jurisdiction over the school.

Kinsman’s lawyers had argued against the change of venue, with the alleged victim claiming she fearful of her safety if the case was moved to Tallahassee.  She also feared she couldn’t get a fair trial in the same city in which Winston had starred for the Seminoles.

In January of this year, Kinsman filed the lawsuit, seeking a trial by jury and damages, against the university’s trustees.  In the suit, it was claimed that the university was responsible for Title IX violations because of a ‘clearly unreasonable response'” to the sexual assault allegations and “allowing a ‘hostile educational environment.'”

Winston was never charged criminally in connection to the allegations of sexual assault. The lawsuit was filed nearly three weeks after Winston was cleared in the school code of conduct hearing, which was also connected to the rape allegations.  The accuser appealed that ruling, but it was subsequently upheld.

In April of last year, attorney’s for the accuser blasted the university for either delaying or outright terminating a Title IX investigation into the allegations. Five months later, it was reported that the university had reopened the investigation.

Winston’s adviser subsequently released a scathing statement claiming that the accuser was the one dragging her feet when it came to the federally-mandated investigation.  That adviser, David Cornwell, also accused the alleged victim’s camp of seeking $7 million from Winston to keep quiet.

Also in April of last year, it was reported that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has launched its own investigation into FSU’s handling of the case.

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Surgery in the offing for Jayhawk QB Michael Cummings

Michael Cummings (14)

The quarterback position at Kansas took a significant shot over the weekend.  Just how significant remains to be seen.

As previously reported, Michael Cummings sustained a knee injury in Saturday’s spring game.  Two days later, KU announced that Cummings will undergo surgery in the not-too-distant future to repair the damage.

The specific nature of the injury wasn’t detailed, nor was a timeline for a return given.

“Michael sustained a left knee injury that is going to require surgery,” Jayhawk head coach David Beaty said in a statement. “Following his surgery he will work diligently, alongside our medical staff, to get back to the field as quickly as possible.”

While quarterbacks were off-limits for contact, Cummings was inadvertently tackled by a teammate on the play that led to the injury to his left knee.

“It was a complete freak accident,” said Cummings in his statement. “I have reviewed the film from Saturday and Michael Glatczak (the player who made the tackle) was being blocked down the field and had his back to the action for almost the entire play. At the last second he turned to make the tackle without having any idea who was carrying the ball. He is a great kid, a great teammate and again it was just a very unfortunate accident.”

Or maybe not.

Cummings started the last seven games at quarterback for the Jayhawks and accounted for a total of 13 of KU’s 25 offensive touchdowns — nine passing, four rushing. Provided he’s healthy, Cummings will enter summer camp as the front-runner for the starting job.

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After leaving A&M, LaQuvionte Gonzalez lands at Kansas

Chick-fil-A Bowl - Duke v Texas A&M Getty Images

Last Monday, LaQuvionte Gonzalez took to Twitter to announce he was transferring from Texas A&M. A week later, Gonzalez took to the same social media platform to announce where he will continue his collegiate playing career.

In a tweet, Gonzalez revealed that he has decided to transfer to “the University of Kansas.” After sitting out the 2015 season t satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws, the wide receiver will have two seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2016.

A big reason for Gonzalez’s decision to move on to the Jayhawks is David Beaty. In his first year as KU’s head coach, Beaty spent three years (2012-14) as A&M’s wide receivers coach and, in addition to serving as his position coach, helped recruit Gonzalez to the Aggies.

A four-star member of A&M’s 2013 recruiting class, Gonzalez was rated as the No. 30 player at any position in the state of Texas and the No. 234 player overall byRivals.com.

As a true freshman in 2013, Gonzalez was fifth on the team with 21 receptions and 240 receiving yards.  His production took a precipitous drop in 2014, however, as he finished with just five receptions for 77 yards.

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Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State big early favorites for Week 1

Nick Saban AP

Only a little over four months until college football. That’s practically nothing! It’s only one-third of the year!

Fortunately, we have some stuff to talk about this Monday morning involving that first week of the season. The 5dimes sportsbook released some fresh Week 1 odds, with the following highlights:

Ohio State – 20.5 @ Virginia Tech
TCU – 19.5 @ Minnesota
UCLA – 16 @ Virginia
Alabama – 12.5 vs. Wisconsin (Arlington, Texas)
Auburn – 12.5 vs. Louisville (Atlanta, Ga.)
Notre Dame -12.5 vs. Texas
South Carolina – 7.5 vs. North Carolina
Texas A&M – 5.5 vs. Arizona State
Utah – 3.5 vs. Michigan

There’s plenty of time for transfers, injuries and suspensions to affect these lines. Ohio State and Virginia Tech may have opposite trajectories right now, but the Buckeyes being nearly a three-touchdown favorite on the road against a Power Five opponent stands out.

On the other end of the spectrum, Jim Harbaugh certainly won’t have an easy debut heading to Salt Lake City. And while Texas is still grinding through a rebuild, Notre Dame only has beat two Power Five teams at home by more than 12 points in the last three years (Michigan 2014, Wake Forest 2012).

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Urban Meyer collects another Buckeye national title trophy

MacArthur Bowl

After being feted at the White House and showing off multiple title rings and myriad other events, one more celebratory festivity was held as Ohio State officially closes the book on the 2014 season and shifts its full focus to 2015.

At the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta Sunday, head coach Urban Meyer was officially presented with the MacArthur Bowl, handed out annually by the National Football Foundation to the FBS champion.  The Buckeyes, thanks to their 42-20 win over Oregon in the first-ever College Football Playoff title game this past January, are the 57th team to be presented the trophy since it was first handed out in 1959.

It also marked the fourth MacArthur Bowl for the OSU football program, joining the 2002, 1970 and 1968 teams.  Meyer also won two (2006, 2008) during his time at Florida.

“On behalf of the Ohio State University I want to thank Chick-fil-A… obviously the National Football Foundation and Steve [Hatchell] and then this beautiful Hall of Fame for having us here,” Meyer said in quotes sent out by the NFF. “It should be a tradition for the head coach to come celebrate at this incredible facility with fans. I want to thank our players, we had an incredible group and they should be here. They are part of history. We really try to develop a program where the players love each other and it’s a family atmosphere.

“The 2014 Buckeyes, that was a real team. How did they overcome adversity? Because they cared for each other. I’m honored to be here and on behalf of Ohio State, my football players and coaching staff to accept this incredible award. It has incredible history and we’ll forever be grateful to be on the side of this beautiful trophy.”

And, yes, this particular trophy is named in honor of the famed Army general.

Ohio State closed out the last of its spring practice sessions last weekend, setting an all-time spring game attendance record in the process.  OSU will open up its defense of the 2014 title with a road trip to Blacksburg against Virginia Tech, the only team to beat the Buckeyes in 2014.

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James Franklin to throw out first pitch at Yankees game

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Boston College v Penn State Getty Images

The head football coach at Penn State will offering his ceremonial services to a stick-and-ball sport in the near future, the school announced this past week.

In a press release, Penn State revealed that James Franklin will throw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium Tuesday prior to the start of the New York Yankees-Tamp Bay Rays game. The contest will essentially serve as a Penn State night at the Bronx stadium, with Nittany Lions fans able to purchase tickets for up to 50-percent off.

This will actually serve as Franklin’s second on-field trip to that particular ballpark in less than four months.

In late December, Penn State squared off with Boston College in the fifth annual Pinstripes Bowl at Yankee Stadium. The Nittany Lions were able to claim an overtime win after the Eagles’ kicker misfired on an extra point attempt in the first overtime session.

“It’s such an awesome opportunity to throw out the first pitch and take in a Yankees game at such an iconic stadium,” Franklin said in a statement. “The Yankees’ staff was great to work with and hosted a first-class event in the Pinstripe Bowl. The experience our student-athletes, coaches and staff had at Yankee Stadium in December was second to none. I am looking forward to taking the mound, maybe I will try to get some pitching advice from Masahiro Tanaka or Michael Pineda.”

Franklin and his Nittany Lions concluded spring practice last weekend with the third-highest attendance total for a spring game this year, and will open the coach’s second season in Happy Valley Sept. 5 at Temple. The home opener comes a week later against Buffalo of the MAC.

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WVU reportedly the new home for Miami’s Antonio Crawford

A.J. Blue, Antonio Crawford

Antonio Crawford might be in for what some people would call “a culture shock.”

Following a couple of weeks worth of speculation, Miami confirmed in late February that Crawford was no longer a part of the Hurricanes football program.  Crawford had aired his grievances with his position on the roster on social media, which hastened the parting of ways.

Nearly two months later, the defensive back and Tampa native has reportedly taken his football talents from near South Beach to Morgantown.

Crawford, a three-star member of the Hurricanes’ 2012 recruiting class, started two of the 38 games in which he played the last three seasons.  Both of those starts came in 2013.

The defensive back likely would’ve entered summer camp as Miami’s top nickel corner, a role he had manned the past two seasons.  Instead, after sitting out the 2015 season, he’ll have one final season of eligibility in 2016.

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Jaxon Hood making way back to Sun Devils?

Weber State v Arizona State Getty Images

Because of what were described as personal issues, Jaxon Hood twice left the Arizona State football program shortly before and then during the 2014 season.

While he’s not returned from the second sabbatical, he could in the near future. Maybe.

On his protected Twitter account Friday, Hood proclaimed “I’m back” and “[t]he road to greatness continues.” When a writer who covers the Sun Devils wrote on Twitter that “Hood’s tweets insinuate nothing about playing football” and that the tweets “[c]ould mean anything in [his] personal life,” Hood responded.

Hold the bus on the Welcome Wagon, though.

The Arizona Republic, citing a source with knowledge of the situation, is reporting that Hood is not officially back with the football team. As of early Sunday afternoon, Hood was not listed on ASU’s online roster, although head coach Todd Graham said late this past week that he wouldn’t rule out an eventual return.

Such a development would be a positive one for ASU’s defensive line rotation.

In starting 12 games as a true freshman in 2012, Hood earned numerous Freshman All-American honors. He was the starter at nose tackle in 2013, then started the first eight games of the season before missing the remainder of the year with his second bout with personal issues.

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Ex-Okla. St. WR Ra’Shaad Samples reportedly transfers to Houston

Oklahoma State v Mississippi State Getty Images

Nearly two months to the day after Ra’Shaad Samples‘ decision to transfer from Oklahoma State went public, the wide receiver has found a landing spot.

Citing sources with knowledge of the situation, Mark Berman of KRIV-TV is reporting that Samples has decided to continue his collegiate playing career at Houston.  The school has yet to officially announce the addition of Samples to the roster, although that’s expected to happen at some point this week.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Samples will be forced to sit out the 2015 season.  He’ll then have two seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in 2016.

A four-star member of OSU’s 2013 recruiting class coming out of high school in Dallas, Samples was rated as the No. 33 receiver in the country and the No. 32 player at any position in the state of Texas. Along with fellow receiver Marcell Ateman and defensive back Jerel Morrow, Samples was the highest-rated member of that year’s Cowboy class.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Samples played in six games in 2014. In that limited action, he caught three passes for 11 yards.

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Report: FSU not expecting NCAA penalties for Jameis’ crab hook-up

Jameis Winston

At least as far as Florida State is concerned, the athletic department is going Lt. Drebin on the latest Jameis Winston revelations — alright, move on, nothing to see here.  Please disperse.

In an interview with Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh that appeared on an ESPN NFL draft special last week, the former FSU quarterback, for the first time, stated publicly that he had received a seafood hook-up from an individual who worked at a Tallahassee grocery store. Winston went on to claim that he had gotten a similar hook-up from the Publix employee on at least one other occasion prior to that.

While Winston’s former head coach Jimbo Fisher stated that FSU’s compliance department had previously looked into the issue but felt like it was an isolated incident, athletic director Stan Wilcox subsequently released a statement saying “we will work in partnership with the NCAA to determine whether a violation occurred.”

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, which cites a source close to the football program, the school “does not expect any NCAA violations to stem from the latest revelation in Jameis Winston’s shoplifting incident.” Wilcox declined to respond to the Democrat’s report, but did state that he doesn’t expect the situation be a drawn-out one.

Winston was issued a citation late last April for shoplifting crab legs from a local Publix store. At the time, Winston claimed to police he had simply forgotten to pay for the seafood.

After leaving the Seminoles early for the NFL, Winston is widely expected to be the top pick in the upcoming draft.

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