The first act was the feel-good comedy, full with smiles, laughter and arguably some of the best quarterback play in the nation.
Winston charmed reporters during the Seminoles’ spring practice, saying “If I get [Johnny] Manziel disease, I want every one of y’all to get your mics and just start [hitting me] on the head.”
His play on the field endeared himself to both ‘Noles fans and college football fans across the country, throwing for 3,163 yards and 32 touchdowns with only seven interceptions.
Drop the curtain on the first act, and now Winston at the height if his fame and peak of his legend, it all could come crashing down in one the more shocking stories in recent memories.
Winston, 19, is being accused of rape by a former FSU student. It’s an incident that allegedly occurred Dec. 12 2012, but according to the accuser, a member of the Tallahassee Police Department threatened the victim into not pressing charges against Winston because of how big FSU football was in Tallahassee.
At the time of the alleged incident, Winston was a five-star recruit from Birmingham, Ala., who had yet to take the field as a Seminole.
After recent days of lawyers representing Winston saying he was innocent and the accuser’s description of the accused didn’t match Winston, a DNA test matched Winston to the accuser.
And now, the lawyer representing the victim and her family said clearly, “this was a rape,” and if Winston is charged with a felony, he will be immediately suspended by the NCAA.
The question is, what should Florida State do with Winston and should they play him?
And the answer should be no — Winston should not play the final game of the season for the Seminoles.
Not only will it most likely be a 30-point romp over a Florida team that just lost to Football Championship Subdivision program Georgia Southern, but it shows the country – most notably the NCAA – that Tallahassee cares about more than football and that FSU isn’t putting this matter on the back burner.
A similar situation occurred several seasons ago at Auburn University when former Tiger quarterback Cam Newton was accused of accepting funds from Auburn boosters.
Obviously being accused of rape and someone trying to prove whether or not you accepted $180,000 is a totally different scenario — but Auburn continued to play Newton despite many in the public believing he was guilty.
And living in the State of Alabama at the time this occurred, there were many aspects of to this story that would point towards Newton taking something from boosters. But that’s a different story for a different day.
The decision could have backfired on Auburn and Newton (or Scam Newton if you lived in Tuscaloosa) if he was found guilty of accepting funds, but it didn’t, and Auburn defeated Oregon in the National Championship game a few weeks later.
Newton would win the Heisman Trophy, also.
But with the FSU football program being in a place it hasn’t been in more than a decade —undefeated and in line to play for the National Championship — the last thing that program would want is to have the immovable cloud of doubt hanging over its head like Auburn did that season.
I understand a DNA sample does not prove guilt and I’m sure much more is still to come with this story.
But one would hate to see the final chapter in this saga turn into a horror story.