In two weeks, we will know the winner of college football’s highest individual honor for the 2013-2014 NCAA football season. That, of course, is the recipient of the Heisman Trophy as it is awarded to collegiate football’s premier player.
Among the top candidates are three quarterbacks—Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M (aka “Johnny Football”), A.J. McCarron of Alabama, and Jameis Winston of Florida State. Andre Williams, a runningback from Boston College, also has a case to win the Heisman for 2013.
According to the latest rankings on ESPN’s Heisman Watch, Winston is listed as the top candidate to win the coveted trophy when the announcement is made on December 14th. But, as most football fans know, there is a Florida Panhandle-sized cloud over Winston’s Heisman candidacy.
Winston has been identified as the primary suspect in an investigation by Tallahassee Police (as well as Florida State University police) involving an alleged sexual battery of a student that occurred on December 7th, 2012.
The details of the investigation, and the case itself, can appear to be somewhat sketchy at times. The Florida State Attorney has announced that it will decide whether or not to charge Winston with sexual assault or rape within the next two weeks. This will be after the ACC Championship game and after the Heisman trophy winner is announced.
It is certainly possible that Winston could very well be charged with sexual assault (rape) and then gets convicted after having the case heard in a court of law in the Florida Panhandle.
It is also a possibility that Winston, with a well-formed legal team of attorneys, could beat the rap and not be convicted of anything.
That possibility alone is why Winston’s name should remain on the Heisman ballot.
The first issue that many are having with the case is the handling of it by police officials. After all, this case came to the forefront almost a year to the day of the alleged sexual assault. This case also would not have garnered the national attention it did if it did not involve the star quarterback of a major university like Florida State. Also, the victim identified the suspect as 5’9 or 5’11. Winston is 6’4, but she was also intoxicated at the time she identified the suspect to police.
Police, though, do have the DNA of the victim’s underwear on their side. A DNA sample on the underwear matched Winston’s. When confronted with this, his defense was the same as many others charged with sexual assault—that the sex was consensual.
Until Winston is formally convicted in a court of law, he deserves his day in trial. If he’s convicted, the NCAA may (or may not) go about the process of stripping him of his Heisman trophy ala Reggie Bush when he was deemed ineligible. But, what if we see into the future and find out that Winston was denied Heisman votes because of accusations that turned out to be false?
Such a day would be a dark day for the college football press—a day that they’d be smart to avoid.
The best way to avoid it is to allow the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” to take center stage, as Winston takes center stage with McCarron, Manziel, and Williams in New York City as candidates for this year’s Heisman trophy.
Topics: Jameis Winston