Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was accused of sexual assault last fall, but an investigation ended up with no charges pressed against the Heisman Trophy quarterback. Though Winston escaped criminal charges, a civil case appears to be looming. According to a report published Friday by FOX Sports, the lawyer representing Winston’s accuser has hired two high-profile attorneys specializing in sexual assault and Title IX cases.
According to the report, attorneys John Clune and Baine Kerr will work with Patricia Carroll “to evaluate the conduct of a number of individuals and entities in this matter and assess their civil and criminal liability.” Carroll is the lawyer who has been representing Winston’s accuser. In addition to Winston, the attorneys will review the possibility of pursuing civil action against Florida State University and Tallahassee police. When the investigation concluded there was not evidence to charge Winston last fall, just before the ACC Championship Game, Carroll made it clear her fight was not going to end.
At this time it is unknown if civil action will indeed be pursued. For now the legal team now assembled will review the situation, evidence and various reports to determine if civil action will be appropriate. It is likely a civil lawsuit will be presented.
“After meeting with them,” Carroll said in the FOX Sports report. “I am confident that anyone who has liability in this case will be held accountable and justice will be served for my client at the end of the day.”
It sure sounds as though the legal representation for Winston’s accuser is determined to pursue civil action. So, what does this mean as far as football is concerned?
First, we do not know what the timeline of any civil suit would follow yet so it is difficult to project. According to the Florida State Intercollegiate Athletics Policies and Procedures, any student found to be guilty of sexual harassment could be subject to expulsion from the university. This could be a gray area because Winston has not been charged with any crimes in the legal system and a civil lawsuit does not carry any jail time for being found guilty.
Whatever happens, it will be sure to cast a little bit of a dark cloud over Winston and could potentially hover over the university as a whole, but let’s hold off on too much speculation and legal analysis until a civil lawsuit is filed.
Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk will be out of offseason workouts indefinitely after suffering a ruptured left Achilles tendon this morning. The school announced via Twitter he is scheduled for surgery on Wednesday.
Sirk led the Blue Devils in passing in 2015 with 2,625 yards and 16 touchdowns while completing 58.8 percent of his pass attempts. Sirk was also intercepted eight times and was a bit of a mobile threat for Duke. Sirk rushed for 803 yards and eight touchdowns, both good for leading Duke’s rushing attack last season.
In the absence of Sirk, that should give Parker Boehme, a redshirt sophomore, and Nicodem Pierre, a freshman in 2015, a chance to get some extra reps in spring football practices. Duke is scheduled to open spring football practices on March 5, which is later than the team has typically opened spring practices. Duke is not scheduled to have a traditional spring game but will have a spring football event on April 9.
With the assistant coaching carousel continuing to spin rapidly, one key position has just opened up out west. Stanford announced the retirement of defensive line coach Randy Hart Tuesday morning.
“I am honored and blessed to have been at so many great places with so many fantastic coaches, student-athletes and fans,” Hart said in a released statement. “And for that, I’m one of the luckiest coaches ever. I have loved each one of my players, and have enjoyed working with every staff member throughout the years. Everyone has to make this decision at some point in time, and this was the right time for me and my family.”
Hart spent the final six years of his coaching career with Stanford during a highly successful run for the program. With Hart on the staff, Stanford’s defense was one of the top defensive units on an annual basis. Hart also spent time coaching at Ohio State, Notre Dame, Washington, Purdue, Iowa State, and Tampa. Hart played for Ohio State under the legendary head coach Woody Hayes. It was with Hayes and the Buckeyes that Hart got his coaching career started as a graduate assistant in 1970 and 1971. He later rejoined the Buckeyes staff in 1982 and stayed there until 1987 when he left for Washington and later took on a role as defensive coordinator.
“Randy’s career speaks for itself when you look at a national championship, Rose Bowls and all of the players he helped get to the NFL,” said Stanford head coach David Shaw. “It has been a privilege for me to watch him push young men to be their best athletically, as well as academically, and prepare them for life.
A new NFL rule will prevent college football players turning pro from attending the NFL Scouting Combine and the NFL Draft if they have been convicted of domestic violence or sexual assault. The NFL will also refuse opening the doors for any NFL-sanctioned event if a player chooses not to submit to a background check.
“It is important for us to remain strongly committed to league values as we demonstrate to our fans, future players, coaches, general managers, and others who support our game that character matters,” NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent wrote in a memo to all NFL teams last month, according to USA Today.
The number of players each year affected by the rules should be minimal on a year-to-year basis, but it is interesting to see how that could impact the draft outlook of prospects moving forward if they get mixed in some legal trouble off the college football field. As noted by USA Today, the rule would have prevented Michigan linebacker Frank Clark, a second-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks, from attending the scouting combine in Indianapolis. Clark pleaded guilty to a domestic violence incident while at Michigan.
The policy adopted by the NFL will be intended to add further consequence for players getting in trouble in college with the hope of changing the image of the NFL player moving forward. As mentioned, this is expected to have minimal impact as only a select percentage of players are invited to the combine, and an even smaller percentage are invited to the NFL Draft. If nothing else though, it is one more consequence that will come from any involvement from a domestic or sexual assault in college.
It would be interesting to see if the NCAA or conferences will be inspired to build off this NFL policy. The NFL policy does not prevent players with a checkered past from attending pro day events or other private workouts. There is no indication whether any conference or the NCAA would consider such a policy on top of existing rules and policies related to domestic violence or sexual assaults. Would a conference adopt a policy that could extend the policy on their campuses to pro day events? Would that even be fair? Or is that going too far?
The Tennessee football program committed three recruiting violations between 2014 and January 2016, but do not expect the Vols to be having any NCAA hammer dropped on them. The NCAA has already accepted the school’s self-imposed sanctions and is moving on. The four minor violations were among 18 NCAA violations submitted to the NCAA according to The Knoxville News Sentinel.
One violation that was self-reported resulted in a one-game suspension for secondary coach Willie Martinez. Martinez served his one-game suspension during Tennessee’s season-opener last fall against Bowling Green. Green was found to have had impermissible contact with a junior recruit during a spring evaluation period in 2014. That violation was discovered by the NCAA offices.
Two other violations reported by Tennessee involved the publicity of recruits making visits to the school. In one, a recruit and his family entered a Tennessee behind football head coach Butch Jones. As Jones waved to the applauding crowd, Tennessee admitted this may have been construed as an acknowledgment of the unnamed recruit. As a result, Tennessee was cut off from having contact with the recruit until the eve of signing day. Another violation came when a mid-year enrollee posted a picture of himself on Twitter. A recruit on an official visit was also in the picture. Tennessee asked for light punishment for the violation as that player was not properly educated on the policies regarding recruits on visits.
The fourth violation from the football program involved complimentary tickets. A walk-on player was given a full allotment of tickets for a home game against Chattanooga despite that player’s certification expiring. That unnamed player was thus ruled ineligible for the remainder of the season.
These types of violations tend to be ticky-tack penalties according to the NCAA rule book, and can sometimes happen without even thinking. The sEC and NCAA accepted the self-imposed sanctions implemented by Tennessee for the football violations and the violations in other sports, and no further action is expected. In the end, Tennessee gets a light slap on the wrist and moves on.