Jameis Winston’s pending disciplinary hearing on allegations that he sexually assaulted a Florida State student in December 2012 is the most serious negative topic of conversation surrounding the FSU quarterback. But it’s far from the only one as Florida State prepares to host Notre Dame in a showdown of unbeatens on Saturday night in Tallahassee.
Winston is expected to play even as Florida State’s compliance department continues to investigate whether Winston was paid to sign memorabilia — a violation of NCAA rules, albeit one that many think shouldn’t be a violation.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. An Authentication Sites Has More Than 2,000 Items Signed by Winston
But unlike in the case of suspended Georgia running back Todd Gurley, no one has come forward and alleged that Winston was paid for the signatures. Spence, for his part, would not reveal to ESPN the identities of the customers who submitted signed Winston items.
From ESPN’s report:
James Spence, the authentication company’s owner, told ESPN on Thursday he will not reveal the identity or identities of the customers who submitted the signed Winston items for authentication. Spence also won’t verify the number of items because he says his database is not searchable by name.
While it’s unknown if he’s ever been compensated for his autograph, there are more than 2,000 Jameis Winston-signed items on the James Spence Authentication website.
But Spence does stand by his company’s opinion that the signatures are real. Spence also said that no one at his company has any knowledge of whether the clients who submitted the Winston items paid the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for his signatures.
2. Hundreds of Winston-Signed Items Are Sequentially Numbered
As many of Winston’s defenders have pointed out, the reigning Heisman winner has signed an extraordinary amount of autographs in public — especially at Florida State baseball games, where he’s a pitcher, outfielder and designated hitter. The mere fact that there are a ton of items for sale on various websites doesn’t suggest Winston was paid for them.
But as ESPN’s report notes, hundreds of the items, which include jerseys and mini-helmets, are sequentially numbered, suggesting they came from an organized signing event.
Here’s what Matt Powers, who runs the Kansas City-based company Powers Collectibles, told ESPN’s Darren Rovel:
No one who is not a dealer is going to submit that many autographs at one time. But besides the number, the giveaway of the JSA authenticated items that you can see on eBay, that suggests it was a sit-down signing, as the consistency of autograph, the cleanliness of the autograph and the fact that the autograph is signed in the perfect place over and over.
Jameis might have signed a lot of autographs, but when he is doing so in public, he’s not 100 percent focused,” Powers continued. “Someone might be chatting with him, he might be signing with different pens on different surfaces like on someone’s hand or shoulder. What’s out there being sold is just too good.
3. FSU Coach Jimbo Fisher Says He Believes Winston When He Says He Wasn’t Paid for Autographs
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has said on numerous occasions that he believes Winston when Winston says he wasn’t paid for autographs.
On an appearance this week on ESPN’s Mike and Mike radio show, he went so far as to say that Winston, whose off-the-field transgressions have included stealing a bag of crab legs from a grocery store and shouting an obscene phrase in the middle of the FSU student union, is a “good kid” who’s given him no reason not to believe him.
4. Georgia’s Todd Gurley Is Suspended Indefinitely Pending an Investigation
Winston played last Saturday at Syracuse and is expected to play tonight against Notre Dame as Florida State’s compliance department continues to look into the autographs.
The case has played out differently than the case of star Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who was the Heisman Trophy frontrunner before Georgia announced it was suspending him indefinitely pending an NCAA investigation.
The key difference between the Gurley case and the Winston case is that while signs point to Winston being paid to sign autographs, a dealer has not stepped forward and claimed to have paid Winston.
In the Gurley case, multiple outlets have reported that a dealer called the Georgia compliance department and claimed to have photo and video evidence that Gurley was signing autographs for money.
5. Winston Faces an Upcoming Disciplinary Hearing Related to Allegations He Raped an FSU Student
The autographs investigation has coincided with the lead-up to a disciplinary hearing that will be held to determine whether Winston violated FSU’s student conduct code when he’s accused of raping a Florida State student in December 2012.
The lead-up to the hearing comes just after bombshell reports by Fox Sports and the New York Times revealed a conspiracy among Florida State administrators to obstruct the investigation into the alleged sexual assault. State’s attorney Willie Megs told Fox that that obstruction was one reason he didn’t have enough evidence to move forward with criminal charges against Winston.