Jameis Winston back under cloud of speculation as Title IX probe opens

Pat Forde
Yahoo Sports

Nearly two years after the act, and nearly a year after the investigation, it still is not over in Tallahassee.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston remains under the microscope for his sexual encounter with an FSU coed in late 2012. He was not charged with rape last fall, but that wasn't the end of it. Now it is the university's turn to look into a Title IX complaint filed with the school by Winston's accuser.

The woman's Colorado-based attorney, John Clune, told USA Today Thursday that she was interviewed by the school Aug. 7. Winston family adviser David Cornwell – a prominent sports attorney who is certainly involved here out of the kindness of his own heart – maintained that Winston did not sexually assault the accuser and cast doubt upon the entire proceeding.

"The real story here is that after her Colorado attorneys created a media frenzy alleging that Florida State University failed to comply with its Title IX obligations, [the accuser] had to come clean and admit that she previously refused to cooperate with the university's Title IX inquiry," Cornwell said in the statement. "Now that she has finally done her Title IX interview, this is the fourth time [the accuser] has told her story.

"We anticipate the same conclusion that followed her previous three statements to the Tallahassee Police Department, Florida's State Attorney's Office and in the FSU Code of Student Conduct hearing."

Cornwell may well be right about the conclusion. But until we get there, Winston's second season as the star quarterback of the Seminoles begins the way the last one ended – with conversation and speculation about what happened that December night in 2012, and a distraction to be dealt with.

Jameis Winston was not charged after the State Attorney's investigation. (AP)
Jameis Winston was not charged after the State Attorney's investigation. (AP)

Winston played through it all last year, and played marvelously. He won the Heisman Trophy and led the Seminoles to the national championship. Expectations for a repeat are alive and well with the 'Noles ranked No. 1 and off to a 1-0 start after a neutral-field victory over Oklahoma State last Saturday.

But winning does not make everything else go away. This latest inquiry is a reminder that, even without having been charged with a crime, Jameis Winston will carry that one night with him for a long time. Perhaps forever.

The continuation of this labyrinthine journey through the justice system – both legal and institutional – is also just the latest off-field headline with Winston's name in it. He's verging on Manzielian in his penchant for always being in the news – voluntarily or involuntarily.

Most avid college football fans can now recite the incidents by heart: the sexual assault investigation; the Burger King soda caper; the BB gun war; the campus squirrel hunting; the crab leg theft. The first one is serious. The latter four, taken individually, are all dismissible. But the cumulative effect is enough to create Jameis Fatigue.

For the casual news consumer, this has become Chinese water torture: the drip, drip, drip of Winston developments that have nothing to do with football. He's the college football version of a Kardashian at this point, regenerating headlines almost daily.

Except there is a reason he was Famous Jameis to begin with. He's such a good player that there is plenty to talk about what he does on the field.

But the focus never stays there for long.

If this is a frivolous investigation, as Cornwell suggests, that's a shame. But the accuser has every right to pursue it, and the school is obligated to conduct its inquiry – hopefully in a thorough and unbiased fashion. There already has been plenty of debate about the competence and objectivity of the police investigations into this incident; it would be nice to have one completed that didn't result in a chorus of criticism and cynicism.

While the latest tempest swirls, Florida State and Jameis Winston will keep "playing ball," as coach Jimbo Fisher puts it. They played through more serious storms than this last year, and came out of it unconquered.

But anyone who believed this episode was over now knows that it lingers on. Indefinitely, and perhaps infinitely.

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