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Off-field noise swirls around Winston, FSU

| Thursday, October 16, 2014

The ESPN “College GameDay” crew hasn’t arrived yet in Tallahassee, Florida, but No. 2 Florida State already has seen its fair share of off-the-field spectacles this week.

Much of the attention surrounds Seminoles redshirt sophomore quarterback Jameis Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Winston received a letter from Florida State president Garnett Stokes and vice president for student affairs Mary B. Coburn on Oct. 10 informing him that he could be charged with as many as four violations of the university’s code of conduct for an alleged sexual assault that occurred in Dec. 2012.

The letter, which was obtained by ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach, notified Winston that he had to conduct the university’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities to schedule an information session in preparation for a future student code-of-conduct hearing.

As of Wednesday night, Winston had not scheduled an information session with the office.

In his Monday press conference, Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher said he doesn’t foresee Winston missing any games due to code-of-conduct violations.

“I know the facts of the case,” Fisher said. “The facts haven’t changed in the case. We know the report and know everything out there. There’s nothing new out there. We’ve been through this.”

Fisher later said he feels Winston has been unfairly targeted.

“This country is based on being innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “… I don’t want a victim for anything, but there is no victim because there was no crime. We’re convicting a guy over things that are not true, based on evidence.”

Fisher once again had to face the media Tuesday after an ESPN.com report stating that James Spence Authentication had authenticated more than 950 items with Winston’s signature on them. According to the report, Spence Authentication has also authenticated more than 500 items signed by Georgia junior running back Todd Gurley, who is suspended indefinitely for allegedly signing items for money.

Fisher said Tuesday that Winston told him he has never taken money in exchange for the signed items.

“He’s never taken a dime from anyone,” Fisher said of Winston. “He’s signed thousands of things. An hour and a half before the baseball game, he signs, an hour and a half after the game. There’s thousands of things out there with his name.”

Fisher refused to answer questions about Winston’s upcoming hearings or his alleged association with Spence Authentication in Wednesday’s ACC Media Conference.

“We’re moving on to Notre Dame,” he said. “We’re getting ready for this game. We have a great game, a great opportunity.”

The Seminoles bring a 22-game winning streak into Saturday’s matchup. This season, Florida State has wins over No. 15 Oklahoma State and No. 24 Clemson. Winston didn’t play against the latter after he was suspended for yelling an obscene phrase. Notre Dame is the only team remaining on Florida State’s schedule that is currently ranked in the AP poll, and Fisher said this fact gives the game a little more meaning.

“Anytime you play a high-ranked opponent, you want to be successful because it gives you a ton of credibility,” Fisher said Wednesday. “There’s no doubt about it. … It does carry weight because Notre Dame has had an excellent year, and they have an excellent team.”

Fisher said his team’s offense, which averages 39 points and over 460 yards per game, will face a tough challenge Saturday.

“They have personnel groups and move people in a lot of different places to present different blitz problems, pickup problems, coverage problems,” he said of Notre Dame’s defense. “You have to be very aware of personnel, where they’re at all times on defense.”

Despite the distractions of the week, the Seminoles have maintained focus at practice, Fisher said.

“They compartmentalize things, practice, do things like they should do,” Fisher said of his team. “They’re presented with whatever they have to do at that present time, done an excellent job. Our team is a very tight-knit, very close, family-oriented group.”

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About Brian Hartnett

Brian Hartnett is a senior marketing major and journalism, ethics and democracy minor. The Carroll Hall resident hails from Clark, New Jersey and covers Notre Dame football, as well as other University topics.

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