Florida State is investigating how an autograph distributor—the same one linked to recently suspended Georgia running back Todd Gurley—has acquired over 300 authenticated signatures from quarterback Jameis Winston. However, questions have arisen regarding the items' legitimacy, both from outside firms and from Winston himself.
Continue for updates.
Wednesday, Nov. 19
Winston Claims Signatures Aren't His
According to a report from Tom D'Angelo of The Palm Beach Post, Winston claims that many of the autographed items in question are forgeries:
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston identified scores of items bearing his signature as forgeries, a source told the Palm Beach Post.
Winston sat down with FSU compliance officials one month ago to look at the memorabilia being sold online bearing his signature after ESPN reported that thousands of authenticated items were for sale. He was able to point out many signatures that he said were forged and many items that had his signature that he knew he had not signed.
'When he looked at the initial website mentioned by ESPN, he looked at multiple things and said that wasn’t his signature,' said the source.
Tuesday, Nov. 18
Winston Items Reportedly Not Validated
ESPN.com's Darren Rovell reports there were originally concerns regarding the legitimacy of Winston's signature:
The autograph authentication company that has certified more than 1,000 jerseys, photos, mini helmets and other items as bearing the valid signature of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston received the items only after an initial authentication firm rejected the job because of concerns about their legitimacy, sources told Outside the Lines.
Five sources who spoke to Outside the Lines on the condition of anonymity said that James Spence Authentication got the items only after competitor PSA/DNA backed out of the February signing with Winston. PSA/DNA did so after being told that it couldn't witness the quarterback signing the items in person, sources said.
The batch of Winston autographs were discovered in the JSA online database in October. James Spence, the company's owner, said in October that he had full confidence that those autographs were authentic, and he reiterated it again this week, through company lawyer Stacy Biancamano.
An official with the company flew from New Jersey to Tallahassee to witness the signing and stayed at the hotel where the signing was to take place, sources said. [Florida memorabilia dealer Donnie] Burkhalter and some of the wholesalers of the signing had set up a couple of rooms full of Florida State gear for Winston to sign when he arrived.
But Winston didn't show up, sources said.
Burkhalter denies that much of this happened. He told Outside the Lines that he has gotten items signed by Winston but has never compensated him.
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Friday, Oct. 17
FSU Releases Statement on Winston Investigation
Rovell provides an official statement from Florida State on Winston and the autographs:
Warchant.com has the latest from Jimbo Fisher on Winston:
Thursday, Oct. 16
Thousands of Winston-Autographed Items Authenticated
Rovell has new details on the authenticity of the autographs in question:
Tuesday, Oct. 14
Jimbo Fisher Speaks on Winston Investigation
Rovell has new details on who the autographs were allegedly signed for:
Fisher commented on the situation, via Warchant.com:
Monday, Oct. 13
Winston Autograph Investigation Surfaces
ESPN's Adam Schefter, citing a report from ESPN.com's Darren Rovell and Mark Schlabach, reported the news, via his Facebook page:
Florida State's compliance department is looking into whether Jameis Winston signed more than 340 items for an autograph authentication company linked to suspended Georgia running back Todd Gurley. A source tells ESPN's Darren Rovell and Mark Schlabach that Winston told Florida State HC Jimbo Fisher he did not sign items for money. But a search of James Spence Authentication's website revealed more than 340 certified Winston autographs. The same company certified more than 500 of Gurley's autographs. The source says Florida State is investigating how the company received such a large number of Winston signatures.
Rovell offered some more details:
Signing your name, of course, isn't against any rules. Doing so for money, on the other hand, is. Gurley, who was among the front-runners to succeed Winston as the Heisman Trophy winner, was recently suspended indefinitely by the Bulldogs for receiving compensation for autographs and memorabilia.
Despite the connection to the authenticator, FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher is confident his QB didn't sign anything for money, via Rovell and Schlabach:
Kids sign things all the time. So, what do you want them to do, stop signing stuff? We could make them not have any fans from that standpoint and not sign for anybody. That's what it's going to come to, and that's a shame for college football, that somebody exploits a kid. Now, if they're getting paid for it, then I don't have any knowledge of that. I don't believe Jameis did.
It would appear the Seminoles athletic department is simply covering all the bases and playing it safe, but considering Winston's importance to the team, this is obviously something to keep an eye on.
As ESPN's Travis Haney noted, this could be a troubling development for Winston and the 'Noles:
The ultra-talented sophomore has completed 70.0 percent of his passes for 1,605 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions this season. When he was suspended against Clemson earlier in the year, the defending national champions needed a late takeaway and overtime to stay undefeated.
If the No. 2 Seminoles are going to remain on pace to crack the College Football Playoff, he'll need to be on the field—especially on Saturday against No. 5 Notre Dame.
Winston, who has found himself on the wrong end of several headlines over the past few months, will also face a disciplinary hearing stemming from an alleged sexual assault in 2012, but he is expected to play against the Irish.
We'll have to see if this newest wrinkle changes that status.