Jameis Winston

Getty Images

FSU settles lawsuit with Jameis Winston accuser

14 Comments

Florida State has officially taken yet another step in putting the Jameis Winston off-field circus deeper in its rearview mirror.

The university announced Monday afternoon that it has settled a Title IX federal lawsuit filed by Erica Kinsman last year.  Kinsman had accused Winston, the former Seminoles quarterback, of raping her in December of 2012 while she was a student and he was a year away from winning the Heisman Trophy.

Kinsman will receive $950,000 from the university as part of the settlement, $700,000 of which will go to her attorneys.  USA Today also wrote that “[t]he lump sum is the largest settlement for Title IX claims regarding indifference to a student’s sexual assault.”

Additionally, FSU has agreed to make a five-year commitment toward programs that will, in part, help prevent sexual assaults on campus.

As part of the settlement, the university did not admit to any wrongdoing in connection to Kinsman’s allegations against Winston.

“Although we regret we will never be able to tell our full story in court, it is apparent that a trial many months from now would have left FSU fighting over the past rather than looking toward its very bright future,” said FSU president John Thrasher in a statement. “We have decided to instead move forward even though we have full faith that the ultimate outcome of a trial would have been consistent with the previous law enforcement investigations and retired Supreme Court Justice Major Harding’s findings in the student conduct hearing. …

“We have an obligation to our students, their parents and Florida taxpayers to deal with this case, as we do all litigation, in a financially responsible manner,” Thrasher said in a statement. “With all the economic demands we face, at some point it doesn’t make sense to continue even though we are convinced we would have prevailed.”

Kinsman, who was reportedly forced to leave campus after her allegations made her a target of some FSU football fans, was understandably pleased with the outcome.

“I will always be disappointed that I had to leave the school I dreamed of attending since I was little,” Kinsman said in her statement confirming the settlement. “I am happy that FSU has committed to continue making changes in order to ensure a safer environment for all students.”

In January of 2015, Kinsman filed the Title IX 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 2014, 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 2014, 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.  That investigation is open and ongoing.

Cam Newton could become third QB with college, Super Bowl title

Getty Images
1 Comment

A little over five years ago, Auburn — behind Heisman-winning quarterback Cam Newton — beat Oregon in the BCS Championship. Two weeks from now, Newton will have an opportunity to join a list that currently is only populated by Joe Namath and Joe Montana.

Namath (Alabama, New York Jets) and Montana (Notre Dame, San Francisco 49ers) are the only two quarterbacks in football history to start for a college football champion and win a Super Bowl. Newton would be the third.

Of course, guys like Tom Brady and Ken Stabler were backups at Michigan and Alabama, respectively, and went on to win a Super Bowl (in Brady’s case, Super Bowls) as a pro. Troy Aikman started for part of Oklahoma’s 1985 championship team, but was injured in October and missed the Sooners’ last push to a title. Joe Flacco lost the 2007 FCS Championship to Appalachian State, while Steve Young (BYU) and Peyton Manning (Tennessee) both left college a year before their schools won championships.

College football’s recent quarterback champions don’t lend a ton of hope that anyone will join Namath, Montana and potentially Newton anytime soon. Jameis Winston has the best chance, and A.J. McCarron started for Cincinnati after Andy Dalton got hurt.

But consider the list of quarterbacks to win a college title since 2000: Josh Heupel (now Mizzou’s offensive coordinator), Ken Dorsey (now Newton’s QB coach with the Panthers), Craig Krenzel (now a motivational speaker and founded an insurance company), Matt Mauck (who’s a dentist), Matt Leinart (who’s now a talking head for FOX Sports), Vince Young (who has a steakhouse in Austin and was arrested for DWI on Monday), Chris Leak (who’s a staffer with the Buccaneers), Matt Flynn (who most recently was the Saints’ backup), Tim Tebow (now a talking head for ESPN), Greg McElroy (now a talking head — and an underrated one — for ESPN), Newton, McCarron, Winston, Cardale Jones (who’s turning pro this year) and Jacob Coker (who’s collegiate eligibility is up).

A not-so-surprising Heisman Trophy first in NFC Championship Game

2 Comments

The NFL’s conference championship weekend is set with another bout between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the AFC and the top two teams in the NFC, Arizona and Carolina, going toe-to-toe for the NFC championship. While there will be plenty of attention given to yet another meeting between Manning and Brady, the NFC Championship Game is making some history with a college football twist. With Cam Newton of the Panthers and Carson Palmer of the Cardinals set to start in the NFC Championship Game, we will see the first NFL postseason meeting between two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks.

At first glance, that comes across as a surprising factoid to consume, but it should not come across as a major shock. Given the track record of Heisman Trophy winner sin the NFL, we already know the Heisman Trophy is far from a guarantee for sustained NFL success. This is especially true for quarterbacks, although the jury is still out on a number of the more recent Heisman-winning QBs (Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota offer some good promise, and who knows if there is still time to save Robert Griffin III, for example). Also keep in mind that for the majority of the history of the Heisman Trophy, running backs were the dominant position before the turn of the 21st century gave way to quarterbacks taking control of the award more often than not.

Take a look through Heisman history and look at the quarterbacks who have won the stiff-arm trophy over the years. Just two quarterbacks won the award in the 1960s, Navy’s Roger Staubach and Notre Dame’s John Huarte. Staubach went on to have a stellar career. Huarte? Not so much. Two quarterbacks won the Heisman in the 1970s, and once again the careers of Jim Plunkett of Stanford and Pat Sullivan of Auburn took drastically different paths. Of the three quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy in the 1980s (Doug Flutie, Andre Ware, Vinny Testaverde), only Miami’s Testaverde proved to have a sustained NFL career, which included a couple of solid runs here and there, but he almost never faced another Heisman-winning QB during his lengthy career.

The 1990s saw four quarterbacks win the Heisman Trophy. Ty Detmer was essentially a career backup. Gino Torretta‘s run in the NFL was brief. Danny Wuerffel did not fare too much better. And Charlie Ward went on to play in the NBA instead of the NFL. Ward may have been the best NFL QB out of that bunch had he focused on the NFL instead.

Even the quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy since 2000 have been farther from competing for an NFL conference championship more often than not. This weekend, 2002 Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer just won his first postseason game as a starting quarterback since blowing out Iowa in the 2003 Orange Bowl. 2000 Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke has an NFC Championship ring, but that came as a backup. 2001 winner Eric Crouch played four years in the NFL with three teams and ended his playing career in the short-lived UFL with the Omaha Nighthawks. 2003 winner Jason White was not even drafted and stepped away due to bad knees. 2004 winner Matt Leinart never lived up to his perceived potential in Arizona and moved on to Houston, Oakland and Buffalo before getting into TV. 2006 winner Troy Smith was a career back-up, for the most part, behind Steve McNair and Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Sam Bradford has been plagued by injuries and Robert Griffin III is looking to rejuvenate his career in a new situation in 2016. And I’m even going to spare you the talk about Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel.

One more piece of information to keep in mind was the AFC and NFC Championship Game structure was not utilized until 1970 when the NFL merged with the AFL. For an award that was first handed out in 1935, that cuts out a number of quarterbacks from even having the possibility to play in an NFL conference championship game (Davey O’BrienAngelo Bertelli, Lee Horvath, Johnny Lujack, Paul Hornung, Terry Baker).

So yes, it is surprising we have not seen a matchup of Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks in an NFL postseason game before, but it is not at all shocking given the history of the Heisman Trophy. And no, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady never won the Heisman Trophy either.

Deshaun Watson earns Manning Award as nation’s top QB

1 Comment

Late last night, Dabo Swinney took home honors as the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year.  A day later, a player who was instrumental in the Clemson head coach’s 2015 success has been honored as well.

The Allstate Sugar Bowl announced Thursday that true sophomore Deshaun Watson has been awarded the Manning Award, given annually to the nation’s top quarterback.  The award, named in honor of the quarterbacking Mannings — Archie, Peyton and Eli — is the only one to take into account a player’s performance in the postseason.

There were 11 other finalists for this year’s trophy: Brandon Allen (Arkansas), Trevone Boykin (TCU), Connor Cook (Michigan State), Brandon Doughty (Western Kentucky), Kevin Hogan (Stanford), Chad Kelly (Ole Miss), Paxton Lynch (Memphis), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma), Dak Prescott (Mississippi State), Keenan Reynolds (Navy) and Greg Ward, Jr., (Houston).

“We are honored to present this year’s Manning Award to Deshaun Watson,” Archie Manning said in a statement. “Deshaun led his team to a perfect regular season and then an impressive win in the Playoff Semifinal before his 478-yard performance in the national championship. He may not have won the title but he showed the world what an outstanding talent he is and what a tremendous competitor he is.”

Watson, a consensus All-American and Heisman finalist, becomes the third player from the ACC to win the Manning, joining Boston College’s Matt Ryan (Boston College, 2007) and Florida State’s Jameis Winston (2013).

Nick Saban closes in on the Bear as ‘Bama bests Clemson in title game for the ages

33 Comments

A week ago was the 10th anniversary of the epic 2006 BCS championship game between Texas and USC.  While the second College Football Playoff title game couldn’t quite match that level of iconic history, it did its damnedest in trying to get there.

In a back-and-forth affair that featured a plethora of long-range scores instead of the expected body shots — and the normally-reserved Nick Saban channeling his heretofore unknown inner riverboat gambler for good measure — No. 2 Alabama used a wild fourth quarter surge fueled in large part by special teams to drop top-ranked and undefeated Clemson 45-40.  With the win, Saban has now won five national championship — four with the Tide — one behind ‘Bama coaching legend Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most in FBS history.

And, in the end, this one was unlike any of the previous four in that it was both literally and figuratively “special.”

The Tide entered the fourth quarter down 24-21; seven and a half minutes later, the Tigers found themselves on the wrong end of 38-27 score.  The keys to the lightning-quick half-quarter turnaround were a pair of special teams plays.  With 10:34 remaining and coming off a field goal that tied the score at 24, Saban called for an onside pooch kick that was recovered by UA; two plays later, Jake Coker hit O.J. Howard on a 51-yard touchdown pass, the tight end’s second busted-coverage score of the game after not catching a touchdown pass of any kind since 2013 (watch that play here).

The ensuing possession for Clemson ended with a field goal that cut the lead to 31-27.  That four-point deficit lasted all of 16 seconds as Kenyan Drake returned the kickoff 95 yards to push the lead back out to 38-27.

A Deshaun Watson touchdown pass, his third of the game, with 4:40 remaining trimmed the deficit to five at 38-33 — the same score, incidentally, by which Texas trailed USC with four minutes remaining in that epic Rose Bowl.  Howard, of all people, helped ensure there would be no Vince Young-like fairytale ending for Watson and the Tigers as the tight end rumbled 63 yards on a second-and-12 screen pass to set the Tide up at the Clemson 14 with just under four minutes left on the clock.

Five plays and and nearly three minutes later, Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry put the final nail in Clemson’s comeback coffin, bulling into the end zone from a yard out with just over a minute remaining.  Henry’s third touchdown of the game pushed the lead back out to 45-33 and essentially ended the SEC’s mini title drought at two straight seasons.

Watson did connect on his fourth touchdown pass with :12 left, but Clemson was unable to recover the onside kick to officially end the instant classic.

Howard was the unlikely offensive star of the contest, outshining even the reigning Heisman winner.  Coming into the game with just 394 yards receiving, the immensely-talented junior totaled 208 yards on his five receptions.  Henry, who broke Shaun Alexander‘s school rushing record in the third quarter, would finish with a game-high 158 yards rushing, and became the first Heisman winner to win a national championship in the same season since Florida State’s Jameis Winston pulled off that trick in 2013.

Henry also became just the fifth running back to pull that off, joining Alabama’s Mark Ingram (2009), Pittsburgh’s Tony Dorsett (1976), Army’s Doc Blanchard (1945) and Minnesota’s Bruce Smith (1941).  Henry’s teammate, quarterback Jake Coker, also made some history as the Florida State transfer become what we believe is just the third player to win two national championships at two different schools — Cam Newton won titles at Florida (2008) and Auburn (2010), while J.T. White won two at Ohio State (1942) and Michigan (1947).

Watson, a Heisman finalist himself, threw for 371 yards and ran for another 73 in a losing effort.  He also became the first quarterback in FBS history to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.

Clemson, which was looking for its first national championship since 1981, had entered this title game having won an FBS-best 51 straight games when leading entering the fourth quarter.  The Tigers had also been looking for its first win over the Tide since October of 1905, a stretch of 40,255 days.

Instead, it was Alabama that claimed its fourth national championship in the last seven years, an unprecedented feat in this day and age.  One final note: Saban and Urban Meyer-coached teams now own seven of the last 10 titles.

In any discussion of the best current coaches in the game,it begins and ends with those two titans.  And, based on how both teams are constructed, a head-to-head title matchup at some point down the road is certainly within the realm of possibility.