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ESPN reported on Oct. 13 that Florida State University is investigating the authenticity of more than 340 Jameis Winston autographs. Winston, the Florida State Seminoles quarterback, denies signing autographs for money.
For his part, Winston denies signing autographs for money, per ESPN’s Darren Rovell and Mark Schlabach:
“Even as Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher says he believes quarterback Jameis Winston didn’t sign autographs for money, a source tells ESPN that the university’s athletic compliance department has begun to look into how so many Winston autographs were authenticated by a single company.
“ESPN has learned that after the team’s 38-20 win Saturday against Syracuse, Fisher approached Winston and asked him if he signed autographs for money .Winston told Fisher, according to the source, that he did not.
“Fisher then told reporters he wasn’t concerned that an autograph authentication business, which recently was linked to suspended Georgia (Bulldogs) running back Todd Gurley, also was linked to Winston.
“James Spence Authentication certified more than 500 autographys of Gurley, who is being investigated for allegedly taking money for signings.
“A cursory search on JSA’s website found more than 340 certified Winston autographs.
“FSU has not been contacted on the matter by the ACC or the NCAA, but the university’s compliance department has begun to specifically look into how JSA received such a large number of signatures.
“The company’s owner, James Spence, who could not be immediately reached for this story, previously said that a single person, most likely a dealer, submitted hundreds of items signed by Gurley to Spence’s company for authentication.
“Fisher had a different take this weekend.
“‘Kids sign things all the time,’ Fisher said after Saturday’s game. ‘So what do you want them to do, stop signing stuff? We could make them not have any fans from that standpoint and not sign for anybody. That’s what it’s going to come to, and that’s a shame for college football, that somebody exploits a kid. Now if they’re getting paid for it, then I don’t have any knowledge of that. I don’t believe that Jameis did.’
“Despite Fisher’s theory that the items could have come from different fans, it’s doubtful they came from more than a few people.
“Authenticators certify an autograph by attaching a serial number to an item. That serial number then links back to the authenticator’s website, where the owner of that signature or a perspective buyer can look it up.
“JSA authenticates items as it receives them and attaches the serial numbers in sequential order. JSA authenticated 76 of the exact same Florida State logo footballs in order with serial numbers J65886 through J65962 and 70 of the exact same signed mini-helmets in order with serial numbers J66829 through J66896.
“The company also authenticated 53 jerseys in a row (J66947 through J67001), 38 11-by-14 photos (J66026 through J66064), 18 of the exact same footballs (J66919 through J66936) and 11 signed Rawlings baseballs (J66898 through J66911).”
In another development, ESPN’s Jared Shanker reported on Oct. 13 that Fisher is confident Winston will not miss any games during the 2014 NCAA season “despite an upcoming university student conduct code hearing that stems from an alleged December 2012 sexual assault of another Florida State Student”:
“In a letter sent to Winston and his attorney on Friday, which ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach obtained, FSU interim president Garrett Stokes and president for student affairs Mary B. Coburn informed Winston he could be charged with as many as four violations of the university’s code of conduct.
“The possible punishments range from a written or verbal reprimand to expulsion.
“‘None,’ Fisher answered when asked about his level of concern Winston could miss games.
“Asked why he felt so confident, Fisher replied, ‘I know the facts of the case. The facts haven’t changed in the case. We know the report and know everything out there. There’s nothing new out there. We’ve been through this.’
“Winston was not criminally charged in December 2013 following an investigation by Willie Meggs, the state attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit. However, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is investigating Florida State’s handling of the case and whether the school properly carried out its mandatory Title IX responsibilities.
“Winston did not miss any games while under investigation in 2013. He won the Heisman Trophy and led Florida State to an undefeated season and the national championship.
“Fisher was emotional during his weekly news conference Monday when defending Winston. His support of Winsotn has not waned over the past year and he said Monday, ‘We believe in him 100 percent.'”
A PDF version of the letter which Shanker was referring to can be read here.