Campus Remains Upbeat About No. 2 Seminoles Despite Lingering Cloud

By Ann Liguori

Amongst the tranquil environment of Florida State University, where huge oak trees and red brick buildings provide an idyllic setting as students work to pursue their dreams on a beautiful campus, the football team is storming past opponents with a frenzy and fury that is quite impressive.

This past weekend, the No. 2 Seminoles blew past Syracuse 59-3 in a rout that has become more typical than not. Now 10-0, it was the 10th straight game in which the team had scored at least 40 points.

Jameis Winston, the starting quarterback, continued to shine Saturday, completing 19 of 21 passes for 277 yards and 2 touchdowns. Second string players took over in the second half, but the Seminoles still dominated.

But lingering behind the picturesque, friendly campus and the euphoria of a perfect record so far, is an investigation of Winston in connection with a sexual assault complaint filed last December and emerged in the news last week when the complaint, which apparently does not mention Winston’s name, was sent to the office of State Attorney William N. Meggs.

Meggs has said that he is surprised he didn’t learn about the case in December 2012 when the complaint was filed with the Tallahassee Police Department. Many questions are unanswered. Why the Tallahassee Police Department waited so long to file is one of them.

News reports say that the police report is heavily redacted. The victim described the alleged attacker as between 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-11 and 240 pounds. Winston is listed at 6-foot-4 and 228 pounds.

Whatever comes of the investigation, the timing of this news is brutal for Winston and his Heisman Trophy chances and will no-doubt distract from the team’s championship run and impressive play. Just being mentioned in connection to an investigation is damaging. Of course, one hopes justice will be served and the truth will prevail.

As I walked around the campus on my first visit to Florida State, the news of the investigation seemed in sharp contrast to the atmosphere, which overflowed with civility and kindness.

I was most impressed with the orderly environment at Doak Campbell Stadium. Unlike many college venues where one may feel somewhat endangered if you’re wearing the “wrong” jersey or sitting in the “other” section, the atmosphere was mostly classy. The Southern-friendly environment poured into the local restaurants and hang-outs.

It was Homecoming Weekend and a lot of parents and alumni were in the stadium. Former Coach Bobby Bowden was honored during the pregame show with members from the 1993 national championship team.

Alums from the marching band, cheerleading squad and drum corps performed in the pregame and halftime shows, a tribute to those who continue to support the university and maintain close ties. The band belted out “We Are the Champions” in honor of the 1993 and 1999 national championship teams.

The football program is no stranger to controversy, getting punished by the NCAA in 2009 for major violations in an academic cheating scandal that included athletes from other FSU athletic teams as well.

When you read and hear about investigations, alleged incidents, some false, some true, at any university, one can’t help but feel saddened that in a place where the hopes and dreams of students and student-athletes are pursued and nurtured, those hopes and dreams can be crushed so quickly, vanishing into the harsh realities of our world.

Follow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori

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