Prosecutor decries police handling of Winston rape probe

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William Meggs, the Florida state’s attorney charged with handling the investigation into the allegations of rape made against Jameis Winston last year, did not hide the fact that, in his opinion, the initial investigation was not handled properly by the Tallahassee Police Department.

In a New York Times “expose” published Wednesday morning, Meggs was on the offensive yet again.  Meggs assailed the TPD probe on multiple fronts, from failing to readily identify a witness — who also happened to be one of Winston’s teammates — to apparent nonchalance when it came to a crucial tip involving a taxi cab to its handling of Winston in the early stages of the investigation.

On the night in question, in December of 2012, Winston and at least two of his teammates, Chris Casher and Ronald Darby, were at a Tallahassee bar named Potbelly’s.  It was there that the three met up with the alleged victim, had a few drinks and then took off in a taxi with the woman.  At some point a few hours, a 911 call was made, alleging she was raped.

It was the investigation — or lack thereof — that has Meggs speaking out more than four months after his office decided against filing charges against Winston.  And, in somewhat of an unexpected turn, Meggs made his strongest comments to date on the case:

— On the TPD failing to find Casher, who allegedly videotaped a portion of the encounter, in a timely manner, possibly leading to the loss of key evidence:

In the recent interview, Mr. Meggs said he was surprised that the police had not quickly found Mr. Casher. “How long does it take to identify a freshman football player — about 10, 15, 16 seconds?” he asked, adding, “Anybody that looked at this case would say you get a report at 2 in the morning, by noon you could have had the defendant identified and talked to.”

Casher allegedly deleted the video “a couple of days” after Winston’s encounter with the alleged victim, well before he was ever contacted and interviewed by police.

— One of the three football players used an FSU ID to get a discounted fare for the taxi.  TPD investigators failed to find the driver of the cab, as well as failed to secure videotape from myriad security cameras positioned in and around the Tallahassee bar that could have shed some light on the incident:

“I am convinced that we would have identified the cabdriver that night and had an interview with him,” Mr. Meggs said. “Don’t know what we would have learned, but we would have learned the truth. I am also convinced that had it been done properly, we would have had the video from Potbelly’s.

By the time the prosecutor [Meggs] asked for that video, the tape had long since been recycled.

— The TPD’s initial encounter with Winston regarding the allegations came via the telephone, which allowed the player the opportunity to “lawyer up” before he could be questioned:

Mr. Meggs said he was shocked that the police investigator’s first attempt to contact Mr. Winston was by telephone. “He says, ‘I have baseball practice, I’ll get with you later,’” Mr. Meggs said. That call allowed Mr. Winston to hire a lawyer who told him not to talk.

“It’s insane to call a suspect on the phone,” Mr. Meggs said. “First off, you don’t know who you are talking to.” He said he would have gone straight to the baseball field. “If you walked up to Jameis Winston in the middle of baseball practice and said, ‘Come here, son, I need to talk to you,’ he would have said, ‘Yes, sir.’”

In summation, Meggs stated that the TPD “just missed all the basic stuff that you are supposed to do” during the course of an investigation of this type, although he stopped well short of accusing the department in general and the investigating officer specifically of willful misconduct because of Winston’s status as a Seminoles football player. Meggs was also quick to caution, as the Times wrote, that “a better investigation might have yielded the same result,” which was no charges being filed against Winston.

In mid-November, after reports of the probe had surfaced publicly, Meggs vowed that his office would get to the bottom of the allegations, a report of which had only recently been forwarded to him by the TPD — 11 months after the alleged rape and only after an open records request from news organizations seemingly forced the department’s hand.  Three weeks later in a press conference announcing no charges would be filed against Winston, Meggs said his investigation didn’t find enough evidence to prove that the sexual encounter between the player and the alleged victim was not consensual.

A short time later, the attorney for Winston’s accuser called for an investigation into the TPD’s handling of the case.  The feds have also reportedly gotten involved on the university side of the situation, with reports coming to light earlier this month that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has launched its own investigation into FSU’s handling of the case.

West Virginia WR David Sills V to return in 2018

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Watch out Big 12, because West Virginia has a very dangerous combination confirmed to be returning in 2018. Days after quarterback Will Grier announced his intention to return to Morgantown for another season, his top wide receiver says he will be there too. David Sills V announced his decision to return for the 2018 season on Monday, giving West Virginia the most potent passing combo in the Big 12 heading into next season.

“After talking with my family and my coaches and taking time in prayer, I have decided to return for my senior season at West Virginia University,” Sills said in a released statement. “I look forward to our bowl game and having another year with my teammates here in Morgantown. It is important to me to finish what I started in the classroom and help our program win a Big 12 championship. WVU holds a special place in my heart, and I am looking forward to seeing what this team can accomplish next year.”

Sills V caught 60 passes for 980 yards and a nation-leading 18 touchdowns this season for West Virginia, leading to being named a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award and multiple All-American nods.

“David proved this year that he can be one of the best receivers in college football,” West Virginia head football coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Another season will help him improve in all areas, and I know our fans will be excited  to see him team up with Will Grier for another year.”

Bovada likes Alabama to beat Georgia, but Oklahoma has odds in their favor

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Alabama has long been considered the favorite to win the national championship in college football according to Bovada this season, and that is not exactly changing with the College Football Playoff here. But if the Crimson Tide get paired up with Oklahoma, Alabama could be playing the role of underdog.

The latest odds released for each possible College Football Playoff national championship scenario have been updated by Bovada, and they continue to bode well for Alabama if they end up facing Georgia in Atlanta. Alabama is a 7/2 favorite against Georgia, while Georgia has been given 25/4 odds to beat the Crimson Tide. Georgia also has 13/2 odds against Clemson, while the Tigers have been given 4/1 odds against the Bulldogs.

The odds continue to bode well for Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma, however. The Sooners have been given 6/1 odds against Alabama and 7/1 odds against Clemson should Oklahoma get by Georgia in the Rose Bowl semifinal to play for their first College Football Playoff national championship.

Here are the different odds for the College Football Playoff national championship as updated by Bovada on Monday morning;

  • Alabama over Georgia – 7/2
  • Alabama over Oklahoma – 4/1
  • Clemson over Georgia – 4/1
  • Clemson over Oklahoma – 6/1
  • Georgia over Alabama – 25/4
  • Georgia over Clemson – 13/2
  • Oklahoma over Alabama 6/1
  • Oklahoma over Clemson – 7/1

Which bet do you like the most?

Crunch time for Temple’s on-campus stadium plans approaching quickly

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For about as long as anyone can probably remember at this point, Temple has been flirting with the idea of building an on-campus football stadium to serve as the home of the Owls. With the current lease agreement to play games in Lincoln Financial Field now set to expire at the end of the 2019 season, the idea of building an on-campus stadium has reached a point where it may be now or never.

According to a report from The Philadelphia Inquirer, Temple is expected to provide an update on the potential plans for an on-campus stadium during a board of trustees meeting on Tuesday. With the construction of a possible 35,000-seat stadium structure expected to take between 18 and 24 months, time is beginning to be more of a factor moving forward. If plans for an on-campus stadium fail to move forward soon, then Temple must work with the Philadelphia Eagles to secure Lincoln Financial Field as a site for home games. According to a previous report from Philly Voice, the Eagles had been asking for a 30-year lease at $2 million per year and $12 million upfront. Temple has been paying $1 million per year for use of the NFL stadium and has called it home since the building opened in 2003. The original lease was a 15-year agreement with two options to tack on two additional seasons.

Temple’s on-campus football stadium has lacked the support from the Temple community and the surrounding neighborhood the stadium would potentially be constructed, making this a decision that does not come easily for the Owls and the university. Despite some recent good seasons out of the Temple football program, the Owls historically have not fared well with packing stadiums for games. Unless Temple is hosting Penn State or Notre Dame, Temple has struggled to be a draw that brings in many fans. The thought is having an on-campus stadium may make it more accessible for the Temple community for less-marquee games, but that is not a fail-proof strategy at this time for Temple either.

Temple’s issues with an on-campus stadium are not unique to the Owls. Even Miami has similar issues with playing home games in an NFL stadium off campus. Despite a strong season of football, Miami took a while to fill the seats until they were playing Notre Dame in November. But Miami has many advantages that Temple does not. And simply having an on-campus stadium does not immediately translate into national success. South Florida plays in an NFL stadium and they have fared well the past few years. Cincinnati has an on-campus stadium, yet they have continued to struggle. Regardless of where the team plays, it all comes down to simply having the best combination of staff and players. Having the best facilities possible is a big factor in recruiting both.

An on-campus stadium for Temple has its perks, but it is not a perfect plan according to those with concerns in the community. We’ll see if anything comes out of this latest board meeting, if the stadium idea remains on the agenda.

Oregon strikes big money deal to retain Jim Leavitt as defensive coordinator

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Oregon may have dropped the first game of the Mario Cristobal era on Saturday, but the Ducks came out of the weekend with reason to feel energized about the future of the program. According to a report from Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, Oregon has reached a deal with defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to keep him on the staff through the 2021 season.

As reported by Feldman, Leavitt will be paid $1.7 million per year for the next four seasons, making him one of the highest-paid coordinators in the country. LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is paid $1.8 million and Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is paid $1.7 million according to a record of coaching salaries compiled by USA Today. Leavitt had been the 12th highest-paid coordinator in college football prior to this significant bump in pay to make him the third highest-paid coordinator in the country.

Keeping Leavitt in Eugene is a big win for Cristobal as he takes over the job as head coach. Leavitt had been expected to be a target of former Oregon head coach Willie Taggart as he assembles his new staff at Florida State. Leavitt had been discussed as a potential target for other jobs as well, with one report suggesting he may have been sought after as a replacement for Bill Snyder at Kansas State.

Leavitt played a big role in turning the Oregon defense around in just one season. Inheriting a defense that ranked 115th in the nation in 2016, Leavitt transformed the Ducks into the 32nd-best defense in the country this season.