The sexual assault case against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is closed, but there really isn't any closure of which to speak. In the end, there was only an inability to move forward.
According to Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs, there was not evidence to bring charges against Winston, or anyone else.
"We have a duty as prosecutors to determine if each case has a reasonable likelihood of conviction," Meggs said Thursday via ESPN.com. "After reviewing the facts in this case, we do not feel that we can reach those burdens."
Yet, moving forward is what Winston, the Seminoles and the court of public opinion must do in their own way. As B/R's Adam Kramer opines, there is no victory in this outcome, no cause for celebration. Lives have been forever altered for the worse.
The outcome of a football game or a Heisman Trophy race are trivial matters in the grand scheme of all this. At the same time, it is a backdrop that cannot be ignored. Florida State will play Duke on Saturday for the ACC championship. VegasInsider.com lists the Seminoles as a four-touchdown favorite in a game where the Seminoles will also essentially be playing for a berth in the BCS National Championship.
The allegations against Winston had been hanging over the Florida State program for the past few weeks, but the 'Noles have shown absolutely no sign of being distracted. Syracuse, Idaho and even Florida weren't good enough to beat Florida State on their best days, but there have been no slip-ups by college football's most dominant team.
Unless Duke and Florida State switch uniforms, there's little reason to believe that trend isn't going to continue for one more weekend.
There's something to be said for the sanctuary that a football field (or basketball court or baseball diamond) provides during instances like this. It's a place where off-the-field issues can stay off the field. It's a place where the common goal of winning forces everyone to focus solely on their jobs.
Winston said as much in an official statement following Meggs' press conference.
"It’s been difficult to stay silent through this process, but I never lost faith in the truth and in who I am," Winston said. "I’m very relieved I’ll be able to continue my education at Florida State and I’m excited I can now get back to helping our team achieve its goals.”
As Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said during a televised ESPN interview on Thursday, the preparation for Duke has been business as usual. With the case now closed, Winston and Florida State will move on by doing what they do best—play football.
The rest—how Winston and Florida State are viewed in the court of public opinion—is out of their control.