Man, what’s going on at Florida State University? The number of universities dealing with issues of academic fraud is bad enough, but are FSU’s football players establishing an even worse trend?
Not only is RB Dalvin Cook the second player to be dismissed from their football team in a relatively short amount of time, but he and QB De’Andre Johnson were dismissed for virtually the exact same reasons. Both were charged with battery. Both encounters involved hitting a woman. Both of these occurrences took place at a bar. Neither of these occurrences technically should have taken place at a bar, since both Cook and Johnson are only 19 years of age.
Of course, they’re college kids, so that’s a pretty normal thing. And to be clear, we’re referring to drinking underage, not assaulting a woman. And in FSU’s defense, no one can really call this a “trend” when it’s only happened with two players (well, more than that, but we’ll get to that later). Nonetheless, we feel it would be sensible to explore the case with De’Andre Johnson, the case with Dalvin Cook, and what FSU coach Jimbo Fisher plans on doing to ensure that his players stay in line from here on out.
The Case of De’Andre Johnson
The battery of a woman by De’Andre Johnson actually occurred the night after the incident involving Dalvin Cook, even though Johnson’s story was the first to become widespread news. It happened on June 24, and there’s actually a video which shows how the whole thing went down. It starts with the woman at the bar, but escalates quickly after Johnson tries to get his own spot at the bar. The woman raises her hand, and Johnson grabs her and pushes her. She tries to hit him, but misses. He then punches her hard across the face, knocking over a few items on the bar in the process. After he makes his exit, she can be seen checking her nose for blood as a friend comforts her.
While the woman Johnson assaulted did try to hit him in the face, she is not being charged with a crime. This is because, as far as attorney Willie Meggs is concerned, she is not at fault. Since Johnson jostled her hard when approaching the bar and then grabbed her by the wrist, her attempt to free herself by first kneeing him and then swinging at him are considered to have been self-defense. Former FSU student and current Buffalo Bills CB Ronald Darby voiced disappointment on Twitter, saying: “Y’all can’t keep letting females provoke guys in all ways and then walk free.”
Darby isn’t the only one who believes that Johnson was provoked. His attorney, Jose Baez (the same guy who got Casey Anthony acquitted for murder) claims that the woman was shouting racist comments at Johnson after he bumped into her at the bar and that Johnson was trying to “de-escalate the situation” before he punched her in retaliation. He also states that Johnson is “very regretful that he didn’t turn around and walk away immediately,” which we’re inclined to believe whether she was the initial aggressor or not. Whether or not she was the aggressor, she was ultimately left with bruises and swelling on her eye, cheek, and upper lip. She also had a cut on her nose in addition to the black eye.
Due to the conflicting stories in Johnson’s case, the Florida State Attorney’s Office has subpoenaed each of the five players with whom Johnson left the bar following the incident. These include OL Wilson Bell, DB Malique Jackson, OLB Jacob Pugh, TE Mavin Sanders and WR Auden Tate. Meggs wants to know what they saw, and has reportedly learned a bit from questioning Bell and Jackson already.
Johnson was dismissed from FSU’s football team after news of the incident broke, but that might not be the only consequence he suffers as a result of his actions. Johnson’s NFL prospects might be greatly diminished, possibly due more to the video than because of the assault itself. Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson was eventually reinstated after the incident involving his son, but Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice has become something of a pariah in the world of football. Many suspect that this is not simply because of the news that he assaulted his fiancée, but because there was video evidence of the event.
It’s an unfortunate situation for Johnson. Some believe that what he did was wrong, and that he undoubtedly deserves to be punished. Others believe that, while he should not be completely off the hook, it is unfair that one mistake as a teenager might cost him the entire future of his career. But whether or not he has any sort of future in the NFL is yet undetermined. Back when we covered the 2015 NFL Draft, one of the many names on our list was CB Marcus Peters. Despite having been dismissed from the Washington Huskies for disciplinary concerns, he is now playing for the Kansas City Chiefs. Johnson might have a future in football, even if that future does not include further play for FSU.
The Case of Dalvin Cook
While Dalvin Cook’s incident took place the night before Johnson’s, he is nevertheless the second of the Florida State Seminoles to receive indefinite suspension from the school’s football program as a result of his actions. When the story first broke, the news media was uncertain how Fisher would handle the incident. While the allegations against Cook were certainly unseemly, there was no video to back them up like there was with Johnson. All they really had to go on was the victim’s testimony, who claimed that she got into an argument with Cook after refusing to give another man her phone number. Cook had then allegedly punched her several times in the face, busting her lip open.
After Cook was suspended, the victim (who is 21 years of age, another parallel between the cases of Cook and Johnson) provided ESPN with several more details regarding the incident. Apparently, Cook’s friend (who is not identified by name) had asked for her number. She rejected him, telling him that she was already in a relationship. Things became more heated after Cook and his friend began pressuring the woman. In her words: “They kept telling me to Google them. They told me they were football players and they could buy me in two years.”
Attorney Willie Meggs issued a warrant for Cook’s arrest after learning of the battery and hearing from the victim, whose story he believed to be credible. If found guilty of the crime, this will actually not be the first mark on Cook’s record. Dalvin cook was charged with criminal mischief back in June of 2014 for damaging property during a “BB-gun battle,” and was investigated with regard to an assault case last July involving a firearm. While the firearm was not believed to be the property of Dalvin Cook himself, the incident still looks relatively bad for Cook’s public image. Especially with battery now on his list of disciplinary issues.
Much like De’Andre Johnson, Dalvin Cook was a valued player on the team. He managed to surpass 1000 rushing yards in his freshman year, and was believed to be one of the team’s key offensive players going into the next season. While his size was sometimes questioned and he was considered to be somewhat reckless, he was ultimately believed to be the key to a stable offense for the Florida State Seminoles. Now, words like “reckless” and “stability” take on new meaning when speaking about Dalvin Cook.
Also like Johnson, this incident might affect Cook’s future. While the earlier comparison between Johnson and Rice hinged on the existence of a video, and there is no video of Cook’s assault (yet), there will still likely be consequences. Many believed that Cook would be a frontrunner for the Heisman this year, and a hype video by Noles Productions demonstrates quite clearly why he was a solid candidate. One of the better plays can be seen at about 1:23, when the ball is tossed to Cook slightly behind the 25-yard, and Cook finds a clean opening to rush it past nearly half of the NC State Wolfpack’s defenders before running straight to the end zone. And that’s not even his longest run in the video.
If Cook hadn’t been dismissed from the team already, his Heisman chances might have been just fine. After all, QB Jameis Winston won the Heisman in 2013 after he was accused of sexual assault the year prior (which isn’t the same crime of which Cook stands accused, although the victim’s story certainly hints at a level of sexual entitlement). But again, Winston was not dismissed or even charged at the time of the initial allegations. Whether just or not, the future of Dalvin Cook may not shine as brightly as that of Jameis Winston.
Can FSU Control Their Players?
The story of Jameis Winston is actually tied into the issue of disciplinary control at FSU. Not only was Winston not cut from the team, he was barely even investigated. He eventually became the youngest Heisman winner to date, and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If FSU had cracked down as hard on Winston as they are on Dalvin Cook and De’Andre Johnson, things might have been different.
But Jameis Winston, De’Andre Johnson, and Dalvin Cook are not unique cases. In fact, Dalvin Cook is the twentieth athlete from Florida State University to be accused of crimes against a woman since 2009. That isn’t just a lot, it’s actually the most incidents of alleged violence against women to occur amongst a single university’s athletes since that year. The second most was in Missouri, with three players racking up eight of the Missouri Tigers’ twelve male-on-female violence allegations.
It gets worse. As hinted by Winston’s case, these allegations rarely make it to court. To be more precise, more than two-thirds of FSU athletes accused of violence prior to Cook and Johnson were not prosecuted. Not that this type of issue is confined to FSU. Two of the aforementioned Missouri incidents involved WR Dorial Green-Beckham, who was not charged and now plays for the Tennessee Titans. To be fair, however, he was dismissed for his alleged violence against an 18-year-old female as well as allegations of drug abuse. He also received counseling, and issued an honest statement in which he accepted full responsibility for his actions.
Green-Beckham’s case indicates that De’Andre Johnson and Dalvin Cook might still have bright futures ahead of them if they can move forward from this incidents with dignity. There is no excuse for their actions, but that does not mean that things are too late for them if they handle their situations in the proper manner. In the meantime, however, it is easy to wonder how coach Jimbo Fisher intends to handle his players going into the future. The state is already cracking down, and it is now up to FSU to ensure that the school does not gain a reputation for propagating a culture of violence against women.
Fisher is aware that he needs to find a way of cracking down on his team, and he actually released a statement in which he addressed this very fact. In his words: “We spend a good deal of time educating our student athletes about appropriate behavior and their responsibilities as representatives of Florida State. The majority of our players are exemplary, but clearly we must place an ever stronger emphasis on this, and I personally promise we will.”
He concluded by saying: “Florida State is a great university. Our fans and supporters deserve better than to hear of actions that are not consistent with the school’s proud history and national structure. We will do better. I will not tolerate anything less.”
Fisher has been asked to develop a plan to keep these sorts of occurrences to a minimum in the future. The state of Florida is already helping by becoming more aggressive in terms of ensuring that athletes are charged for their crimes. We do not yet know what this plan will entail, but FSU certainly has the motivation to ensure that they stay out of the headlines as much as possible in the future. Technically, no school can control the personal actions of its athletes. But Florida State certainly intends to try.
The fact that De’Andre Johnson may have lost his future in the NFL and the fact that Dalvin Cook is no longer a primary frontrunner for the Heisman will help to drive home the point that actions have consequences. This is likely to have an effect on their teammates. And maybe, just maybe, the message will be heard by student athletes everywhere.