National awards considering Winston in a quandary as season ends

Jameis Winston continues to be considered by five major awards, including the Heisman. (USATSI)
Jameis Winston continues to be considered by five major awards, including the Heisman. (USATSI)

Legal issues or not for his quarterback, Jimbo Fisher will have a direct impact on Jameis Winston winning at least one national award.

“Absolutely, that’s our player of the year … process,” said Al Carbone publicity chairperson of the Walter Camp Football Foundation.

Florida State’s coach has a vote, as does each FBS head coach and sports information director for the Walter Camp Award that goes to the nation’s most outstanding player.

As small as that impact would be -- 1/250th of the electorate -- Fisher does have a say in whether his legally embattled quarterback will be nationally honored.

If anyone has a problem with that, it’s only because Winston's off-field situation. One of nation’s oldest college football awards has done it that way for years. It has never had to consider a quarterback largely considered to be among the best in the country who is also accused of -- but not yet charged with -- sexual assault. 

Under normal circumstances, Fisher would be nothing more than a triple (voting) threat for the Camp, which traces its roots back to one of the game’s founding fathers in the 19th century. Under the Camp rules, Fisher can vote for himself coach of the year, vote Winston player of the year, and vote the quarterback first-team All-American.

That nugget is among those discovered after contacted all five national awards that will consider Winston for national honors. Considering his current legal limbo status, all five were asked their stance on Winston’s candidacy for those awards.

The FSU quarterback is currently being investigated by the Florida state attorney’s office. State attorney Willie Meggs has said the investigation may not be completed before Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, those voting on the BCS and those national awards await resolution.

“I hope somehow it’s resolved, definitely,” said one awards official who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. “I hate it hanging over everyone -- the kid, the girl.” 

While Fisher’s input for the Camp would be small, it reflects the widely varying degrees as to how his quarterback will be evaluated by media, voters, trustees, boards and -- in the case of one award – the Manning family itself.

Winston continues to considered by those five awards -- the Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, Walter Camp and Manning awards as well as the Heisman Trophy. The Heisman, Camp and Maxwell are national player of the year awards. The O’Brien and Manning go to the nation’s best quarterback.

“Do we have contingencies,” Carbone said, “absolutely we do.”

That’s not the case for other awards regarding Winston. In fact, details are sketchy on how awards would react if Winston is charged or his case is unresolved by voting deadlines. FSU rules dictate that if Winston is charged, he would be suspended from the team. There are exceptions, according to reports.

Meanwhile, awards week is looming in two weeks. Beginning Dec. 9, college football celebrates the best and brightest of the sport beginning with the National Football Foundation dinner that night in New York. The week culminates Dec. 14 with the Heisman ceremony.

Most of the approximately 30 national college awards are at least in the semifinalist stage with two weeks left in the season.

Both the Heisman voting deadline and announcement of the finalists are the same day, Dec. 9. Spokesman Tim Henning was asked what options would be available if Winston were invited to New York but subsequently charged (and suspended) prior to the Heisman ceremony.

“Anything like that would have to come from the Heisman Trust at this point in time,” Henning said. “The Heisman Trust doesn’t work on hypotheticals.”

That’s part of the complication as networks, boards and voters consider how to deal with Winston’s status. Out of those 30 awards, voters for the “Winston Five” awards (our term) may soon have to evaluate the quarterback’s worthiness as an awards candidate before his legal status is resolved.

“People have to be aware of, think about, Duke lacrosse,” said Bill Brady, new executive director of the O’Brien. “Those were allegations. You can’t convict anyone based on what we know at this point in time.”

Brady told that while the Winston situation hasn’t been formally discussed, there is language that covers the situation. The 26-member board of trustees could rescind the award by simple majority vote after the fact.

For there to be a vote, there would have to have a violation of stated criteria -- such as, but not limited to, an NCAA violation, according to a source. 

Winston was named one of the three O'Brien finalists on Monday. (AJ McCarron and Johnny Manziel were the others.) The same Monday deadline existed for the decade-old Manning award (10 finalists of which Winston was expected to be among). Ultimately, the New Orleans-based award for the nation’s best quarterback is overseen by family patriarch Archie Manning.

“We don’t have anything in place to remove a finalist from consideration,” said John Sudsbury, the award’s media contact. “If something does come out of that, if there are charges against him, we’ll have discussions, the Manning family as well.”

Of the “Winston Five”, the Manning probably has the most flexibility. Its winner isn’t announced until after the bowls in January, two months from now. Because of that, the Manning is in the least danger of being embarrassed by any Winston developments.

For years, several awards have rushed to have their finalists in place long before the season is concluded. In that sense, commerce triumphs over common sense. Part of the reasoning is to get included on ESPN’s awards show, typically the Thursday after the end of the regular season.

The Heisman ceremony follows two days later. The feel-good, emotional televised climax to the college season almost certainly will have to address Winston’s situation, whether the quarterback is present or not. Winston is considered the current favorite by many and almost certainly will be formally invited in two weeks.

What will his legal status be?

O.J. Simpson got to keep his Heisman after being charged with a double murder. (He was found not guilty at trial. Simpson was subsequently found guilty of separate charges in 2008.) However, Reggie Bush was asked to return his trophy three years ago after the NCAA concluded he took improper benefits.

Two years ago, the Heisman invited LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu as a finalist after he had been suspended for a game for what was reported to be a positive drug test.

Henning referred to the Heisman Trust mission statement. The statement refers twice to “integrity” – once regarding that of the athlete and the other  the “integrity of this award.”

“That’s basically the sole kind of rule we have on the Heisman,” Henning said.

The Camp’s voting deadline is Dec. 2. The finalists are announced Dec. 4. The winner is revealed on Dec. 12. However, following the voting, the Camp “membership” – made up of 100 volunteers – will ratify the vote.

“They’re from all different walks of life,” Carbone said. “lawyers, firefighters … Our membership will vote on it. If anyone wants to bring it up, they can bring it up.”

Theoretically, that membership vetting allows for the New Haven, Conn.-based award could then decide on Winston’s worthiness.

“What it comes down to is what our volunteer membership goes through,” Carbone said. ‘Do you approve this?’ That’s our backup.”

The same year the Heisman asked Bush to return its trophy (2010), the Camp stayed by the USC tailback. The Camp issued a statement citing Bush’s on-field performance was considered at the time of voting.

Still, it’s clear those who run those national awards are having a tough time evaluating Winston’s status, eligibility and worthiness.

“Really, I can’t comment on that right now,” said Mark Wolpert, executive director of the Maxwell Football Club. “We’ll see how things play out … I anticipate if things [change] our board will be getting together soon.”

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories