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How Should Heisman Voters Be Handling Jameis Winston's Legal Case?

WINSTON SALEM, NC - NOVEMBER 09:  Jameis Winston #5 and teammate Bryan Stork #52 of the Florida State Seminoles talk on the sidelines in their victory over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during their game at BB&T Field on November 9, 2013 in Winston Salem, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterNovember 19, 2013

Another college football season and another irregularity with voting for the Heisman. This year's issue is far more serious than the problems of recent history and must be treated as such. However, the handling of the issue remains the same as all others, a wait-and-see approach.

2013's Heisman Trophy Ceremony is just weeks away, and Florida State's Jameis Winston is the odds on favorite. The redshirt freshman is leading the latest Heisman Pundit straw poll, and the clock is ticking on the other contenders. Winston has also found himself at the center of a legal controversy.

The evolving situation, first revealed by TMZ releasing the information that a sexual battery investigation is still open concerning Winston, places the quarterback at the center of the issue. Obviously, the legal situation is job one, working to bring justice for the victim and to the culprit is paramount.

With that in mind, in voting for a football award, the use of observing without judgement, an innocent until proven guilty take on the situation is a smart move. The goal, where voting is concerned, should be to not make Winston a victim if he's not involved in the situation. That means avoiding a rapid jump to conclusions.

Deciding guilt without legitimate proof is a very real move. Given the "with integrity" portion of the mission statement of the Heisman Trust, several have used the voting process as a bully pulpit. "Even if he is cleared, there is bound to be a group of voters that will leave him off their ballots," notes Heisman voter, Sean Bielawski of WXGI-ESPN 950 in Richmond Virginia. Bielawski points out that many elected to, in a case of lesser circumstance, use Cam Newton to make their morality stand.

Given the dearth of information regarding the case, the wait-and-see approach makes all the more sense. "The bottom line is nobody, from the police to the school, have an accurate picture of the ordeal," is how Bryan Fischer, a Heisman voter, explains things.

This is a sticky situation, and hands off is how the smart voters are going to handle it. Circumstances are real, and now is not the time to insert one's self into the story in an effort to make a stand. Eyeball new developments, but if nothing changes prior to ballot submission, vote for Winston as an innocent party, deserving of being in the hunt for the award.

That is the approach that Fischer is taking, stating, "Unless there's something significant that comes out in the next few weeks, this issue does not affect my vote." Bielawski echoes that point by pointing out that voters, "definitely have to keep an eye on the investigation, but at this point, we can only judge his Heisman candidacy based on what he has accomplished on the field."

Watching and waiting for the case to play itself out is the best course of action. Voters, like Fischer and Bielawski, understand that point, and hopefully most of the people sending in ballots comprehend this as well.

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