Recent Charges to Student Athletes has FSU Under National Microscope
By Chris Bony
An abundance of media coverage has descended on Florida State University (FSU) in the past month as two football players were arrested on charges of misdemeanor battery for incidents involving violent acts against women.
The incidents occurred one day apart. On June 23, FSU running back Dalvin Cook allegedly hit a woman in a Tallahassee bar. Then, on June 24, freshman quarterback De’Andre Johnson was accused of hitting another woman at another bar. A video of Johnson and the woman has gone viral and after its release Johnson was dismissed from the team. Cook has also been suspended indefinitely.
Since then, the media coverage — which emphasizes a culture that is suggested to be developing among the male athletes – has led the head football coach, president and supporters of FSU to respond to the concerns. FSU President John Thrasher met with football players and then issued a letter to supporters and alumni about the incidents.
“In light of recent off-field incidents, I reiterated to our players that they simply cannot put themselves in situations that reflect poor behavior or cause harm to others,” Thrasher said in the letter. “They must remember that playing football for FSU is a privilege, not a right.”
The two incidents also created significant problems for FSU because of their unfortunate similarities. Thrasher and Head Football Coach Jimbo Fisher have been closely watched in how they choose to handle these situations going forward after the university was scrutinized a year ago for its handling of the Jameis Winston case. Winston, Heisman Trophy winner and former FSU quarterback, was accused of raping a fellow student. However no charges were filed against him. The female student has filed a civil lawsuit against Winston.
As a result of the past month, Thrasher wants students to know where the university stands. In the letter, he said, “The actions of a few have the capacity to do serious damage to the reputation of our entire university. I told them their coaches, the athletics administration and I will do all we can to support them and help them learn the values we expect them to uphold. But they will be held accountable for their actions.”
Students, who support and show an undeniable love for this university and its athletic program are left in an uncomfortable and difficult position.
“It’s like we really love this football team and we love winning, but you know right from wrong,” said Sheree Coote, a senior at FSU. “I want our team to stay on top and I know we need our best players but I also wouldn’t want to be in one of those girls’ shoes. To be hurt by someone and watch nothing happen to them because others want to be happy.”
Cook is most certainly a key piece to the FSU offense and had a significant contribution to the team’s trip to the inaugural College Football Playoff last season.
“Cook was awesome last year and I don’t know how well we’ll do without him,” said Allen Huddard who is a junior at FSU. “This isn’t good at all. I hope we won’t have to worry about stuff like this too much more in the future. I’m sure coach Jimbo is going to make a few changes to keep these players under control.”
Head Football Coach Jimbo Fisher has recently banned his players from bars and it’s been reported that Thrasher wants to make it a requirement for student-athletes to attend a social responsibilities course to give the players “additional background in consequences of actions.”
“I told the coaches what is expected of them. The administration will support them in their efforts to provide mentors, teach life skills and do whatever is needed to help our student-athletes be good students and good citizens,” said Thrasher in his letter. “Coach Fisher and Athletics Director Stan Wilcox are developing a strong plan to help our student-athletes understand the consequences of poor behavior.”