Florida State, and specifically head coach Jimbo Fisher, long ago went all-in on defending all things Jameis Winston may or may not have done. Just today, in fact, Fisher said Winston will not miss time despite the university looking into a possible code of conduct violation regarding his lingering rape allegation, stating that he had reviewed the facts of the case and that there was no victim, and thus no crime.
It’s time to add another allegation Fisher must defend his quarterback again. This one is not nearly as serious, but could hit Fisher and Florida State right where it hurts – the playing field. According to a report Monday evening from ESPN.com, the school is looking into 340 items autographed by Winston happened to turn up in the possession of a single authentication company.
The company in question is James Spence Authentication, which happens to be the same group that verified 500 signed Todd Gurley items, for which he is currently serving an indefinite suspension.
Consecutive string of Jameis signed & authenticated signatures: 76 FSU logo footballs, 75 mini helmets, 53 jerseys, 38 photos.
— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) October 13, 2014
According to the report, Fisher approached Winston following Florida State’s 38-20 defeat of Syracuse on Saturday and asked him if he accepted money for his signatures. Winston, of course, denied doing so. Every other rational human being alive, of course, now wonders who signs 340 autographs for nothing in return.
“Kids sign things all the time,” Fisher said Saturday. “So, what do you want them to do, stop signing stuff? We could make them not have any fans from that standpoint and not sign for anybody. That’s what it’s going to come to, and that’s a shame for college football, that somebody exploits a kid. Now, if they’re getting paid for it, then I don’t have any knowledge of that. I don’t believe Jameis did.”
Regardless of Fisher’s unwavering faith, ESPN reports Florida State’s compliance department is looking into the matter.
Martin Buckley, a so-called autograph expert reached by ESPN, disagrees with Fisher. “The items that I’ve seen signed by Todd Gurley and Jameis Winston, which have been authenticated by JSA, look like they came from an autograph signing,” Buckley told ESPN. “This is based on the items, themselves, being similar, the quantities of those items, the consistency of signature as well as similar spots in which they signed.”
This is the time we note, because if we don’t every Texas A&M and Florida State fan will, that a similar report came out about Johnny Manziel in the days leading up to the 2013 season, which resulted in a whopping one-half suspension.
It’s incredibly hard to prove someone accepted money for autographs without a smoking gun. And considering this is the NCAA we’re talking about here, it might take three or four.
Regardless of what does or does not come of this, two things are abundantly clear about Winston by now. First, he is the Chairman of the “It’s Always Something” club. A swarm of controversy will trail him like the dirt that accompanies Charlie Brown’s pal Pig Pen for as long as he remains a Seminole. (And if he’s to take SI.com legal expert Michael McCann’s advice, that may not be much longer.) Second, with the ability Winston has shown to block out any sort of swarm around him and actually play better, he’ll probably throw for 500 yards and six touchdowns against Notre Dame on Saturday night.