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    Local and State News...

    FSU could receive NCAA sanctions similar to those of Penn State sex scandal

    July 12, 2015
    By: By Jack Strickland
    Statewide

    July has been a rough month for Florida State football. Two members of the team have been arrested in separate incidents and charged with misdemeanor battery. Both players are charged with striking women in the face with sufficient force to cause injury. The incidents occurred during the month of June in or around bars near the Florida State campus.

    On Monday Coach Jimbo Fisher announced that freshman De’ Andre Johnson has been dismissed from the team after video from a bar went viral showing him strike a 21-year-old coed in the face in an apparent tussle over access to the bar.

    On Friday Coach Fisher “suspended indefinitely” star running back Dalvin Cook after Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs announced that charges have been filed against Cook.

    Both players are presumed innocent until a court determines otherwise.

    These latest arrests may be the tip of the iceberg of problems facing the Seminole Athletic Department. Florida State is currently under investigation by the NCAA and the federal government in the aftermath of previous allegations of a culture of abuse of women by the school’s football players.

    People familiar with procedures governing Title IX and NCAA violations think FSU may be hammered with sanctions similar to those handed down against Penn State in its recent sex scandal. Under pressures from the scandal, the Penn State athletic department was virtually dismantled and the football coach and school president were eventually fired.

    Florida State immediately took a proactive stance after the damaging Johnson video went viral. Florida State President John Thrasher issued a statement on Tuesday supporting Coach Fisher’s decision to dismiss Johnson. His statement said Johnson’s conduct was unacceptable and he expected “... student athletes to adhere to the highest level of conduct. I have no tolerance for the kind of behavior exhibited in this case. Florida State University was forged from an outstanding college for women and has a tradition of being a caring community that demands students be treated with dignity and respect.”

    Coach Fisher announced that he is counseling and educating his players. He said steps will be taken to prevent similar infractions from occurring again.  Among them is a new policy that requires Florida State football players to stay away from bars.

    There is an old coaching axiom that teaches not to cripple your team by terminating players essential to your team’s top performance. According to the axiom, to maintain discipline a coach should kick off the team substitute players who violate team rules or embarrass the team. When stars commit the same offenses you give them a second chance.

    That philosophy may be in play at Florida State this week. Freshman third stringer De’ Andre Johnson was kicked to the curb with his dismissal from the team. For the same offense, starter and key running back Dalvin Cook was given a second chance with an indefinite suspension.

    Renowned Orlando Sentinel sports columnist Mike Bianchi asks the question, “Why is Dalvin Cook, another FSU player accused of hitting women, even on the team?”

    In his highly acclaimed Saturday column, “Running Off At The Typewriter,” Bianchi details Cook’s brushes with the law that date back to his high school days. He suggests that Cook is treated differently because he is a star and there is no video showing his offense.

    It should be noted that De’Andre Johnson, except for the unacceptable conduct in this instance, appears to be an upstanding student athlete. There is no indication he has been in trouble before.  After the video surfaced he and his family embarked on a course of corrective action. They say he will receive counseling and will do community service at centers for battered women. 

    State Attorney Willie Meggs said Johnson has two choices: He can plead guilty or go to trial.

    The Seminole football program is reeling this week in the wake of these two arrests. The real blow to Florida State may come when when the NCAA and Title IX investigators ultimately hand down their rulings.