The ballots for the Heisman Trophy are due into the Downtown Athletic Club in New York early this week and the 800 or so sports writers and broadcasters who do the voting will have a tough choice on their hands.
In terms of sheer numbers, there’s no more deserving candidate this year for the highest individual honor in college football than Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston.
In his first regular season in Tallahassee, Winston performed nearly flawlessly in 2013, throwing for nearly 3,500 yards and completing nearly 69 percent of his passes, 35 of them for touchdowns against eight interceptions.
If Winston’s on-field performance was all there was to voting for the Heisman, his name would already be engraved on it.
But right there, in the first line of the description of Heisman Trust’s mission statement from the website is the problematical area for voters.
According to the mission statement, the Heisman is to go to the player that quote best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity unquote.
It’s the integrity part that may trip up Winston.
Last week, Willie Meggs, a Florida state prosecutor, announced that his office would not seek criminal charges against Winston in connection with an incident last December, in which a woman alleged that Winston raped her.
Winston, through an attorney, acknowledged that he had had sex with the woman, but maintained that their contact was consensual.
A Tallahassee police officer wrote initially that the woman exhibited no obvious signs of external injury. Later, the officer noted that the woman did suffer bruising and a nurse collected a rape kit.
According to information released by Tallahassee police and from statements from Meggs as well as Winston’s attorney, the woman, who acknowledged having consumed alcohol, said she left a local bar and went to an unknown location where she met the suspect, presumably Winston.
The woman told police that the suspect removed her clothes and began to have sex with her, when another person entered the room and told the suspect to stop. The woman told police she told the suspect to stop and tried to kick him off her, but the suspect pinned her arms down.
According to the statements, the suspect took her to a bathroom, where he continued to have sex with her. Later, the woman told police, she was on the back of a scooter and was taken to a corner near the stadium where the football team plays.
The woman’s allegations sat largely dormant for nearly a year, before they surfaced last month, amid suggestions that the local police, in a possible desire to do a solid for a football hero, botched the investigation.
Meggs announced during a Thursday press conference that while something untoward may have happened, there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Winston.
It bears noting that inappropriate behavior in this matter isn’t limited to the Tallahassee police.
On Thursday, Meggs was seen wearing a tie with Florida State’s colors and entertaining the assembled media like he was doing stand-up at the local Chuckle Hut, as reporters yucked it up.
That kind of behavior will hardly be comforting to women who have been assaulted and need compassion and support from law enforcement officials to step forward.
Jameis Winston is entitled to a presumption of innocence in any criminal matters unless and until the state can prove his guilt.
But that’s in a court of law. Florida State fans would say that, as far as the Heisman Trophy is concerned, Winston did all that was required on the field.
Maybe. I just know I’d like to feel good about the people I vote for. If I were a Heisman Trophy voter, I don’t know that I could cast a ballot for Jameis Winston with a clear conscience.