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Delayed Jameis Winston Hearing Serves FSU Football, Not Justice

Greg CouchNational ColumnistNovember 14, 2014

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

First came the cover-up, and now the delay tactics.

It's starting to look as if the clock just might run out before Jameis Winston has to stand up for any final judgment on the sexual assault allegation against him. The other way of looking at that: This thing could be stalled out so long Winston's alleged victim never gets a fair shake.      

On Wednesday, according to several reports (ESPN, USA Today, Fox, the Tallahassee Democrat, etc.), Winston's student code of conduct hearing was delayed from Nov. 17 until Dec. 1. That's two days after Florida State's final regular-season game.

Winston's attorney, David Cornwell, asked for the postponement to give him time to look over the evidence.

A look at the rules in the FSU student handbook shows how this could very well be the loophole that allows Winston to play out the season, get Florida State its College Football Playoff money and possibly even allow him to play in the national championship before ever facing a hearing.

Winston dropping out of school before Florida State can present its findings is an idea Sports Illustrated's Michael McCann suggested a month ago.

"If Winston withdrew from school, he would move outside the university's jurisdiction and could not be forced to participate in a university disciplinary hearing," McCann pointed out. With the hearing now delayed, the timeline wouldn't even necessarily require sacrificing any football.

Phil Sears/Associated Press

It's hard to say for sure that anything dirty is happening with this delay. Maybe it is. Or maybe it's just the way things typically go in these types of bureaucratic legal processes.

Either way, it's another example of football winning out, power winning out. Somehow, the people with power always seem to be the ones to win out. Ironically, power is what a sexual assault charge is usually about.

Do you think if this were about a regular student, and not a Heisman Trophy winner, it would be taking this long to play out?

No way.

The FSU student handbook says that when the hearing is finished, the school has up to 10 "class days" to come down with its decision. Consider the timeline:

Let's say the hearing takes three days, Dec. 1-3. The College Football Playoff final four will be announced on Dec. 7, meaning it's likely that the committee will be deciding on Florida State while assuming that Winston will be playing.

On Dec. 12, final exams conclude. That would be only nine days after the hearing ends. The national semifinal game is Jan. 1, before the spring semester starts. The second semester—the next class day—isn't until Jan. 7.

And while the national title game isn't until Jan. 12, the student handbook says that people are given five class days to appeal any decision. Then another hearing has to be scheduled.

Last week, Cornwell filed for an extension, and John Clune, attorney for Winston's alleged victim, told Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com that Cornwell, "obviously doesn't want his client to ever do the hearing."

One thing that's unclear is who approved this delay. ESPN, citing unnamed sources, said Florida State had done it. But Fox, also citing sources, said it was done by retired Florida Supreme Court justice Major Harding. Both sides in the case approved Harding.

Either way, this case shouldn't have even gone this long. The New York Times, which on Friday reported on Tallahassee law enforcement's questionable handling of an Oct. 5 car accident involving two Florida State football players, back on Oct. 10 detailed how Florida State and the Tallahassee police botched and covered up the case. The state's attorney chose not to file charges because he said there wasn't enough evidence.

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

So the alleged victim was down to this hearing. Now, stall tactics are threatening that.

Look, it's probably true that Winston's attorney didn't have much time to sift through the evidence after the hearing date was set. But the alleged rape happened nearly two years ago. Winston was identified a month later, and lawyers and school officials killed a lot of time covering this up and putting up roadblocks to the investigation.

Everyone has had plenty of time. The Title IX laws are in place, requiring an investigation, as a means to protect alleged victims.

I'm not sure people need any more time to delay that justice, if that's really what we're after here. Twenty-three months is enough time to get your story straight.

 

Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report. He also writes for The New York Times and was formerly a scribe for FoxSports.com and the Chicago Sun-Times. Follow him on Twitter @gregcouch.

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