Florida State football news: Heather Cox, Jameis Winston and the Heisman

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State football coaches are heavily into recruiting this week, while various players go around to collect awards. But before I get into that, I wanted to discuss something that has been heavily discussed in the comments section and on twitter.

Heather Cox talks Jameis Winston - Richard Deitsch - SI.com Read that link first, and then come back and read the following thoughts.

As many of you saw on the TV broadcast Saturday, ESPN sideline report Heather Cox asked Jameis Winston five questions. Four were at least somewhat related to the investigation into an alleged sexual battery, in which Winston was cleared Thursday. Winston was never charged.

I have no problem with the first four questions. Questions two through four are at least somewhat related to football. In an environment like this one, questions should primarily be about football, the game that was just played on the field, and future implications about football. The fifth question, and fourth consecutive relating to the investigation, was not about football in any way: "Jameis, how come you decided not to talk during the process, and on Thursday?"

I disagree with Deitsch about the fifth question. He says Cox was doing her job, and notes that it should have been asked second. I do not think it should have been asked in this setting. I think she was trying to do more than her job.

This seemed like a sideline reporter trying to be something more than a sideline reporter. I believe this not only because the question was asked, and in the sequence that it was asked, but also because Cox tells Deitsch that she would have been criticized for not asking it. That speaks to a sideline reporter who believes her job is more than what it is.

The question would be appropriate for a sit-down interview at a later date, but with the warchant blaring in the background, coaches soaked in powerade, and players dancing around with roses in their mouth celebrating the trip to Pasadena, it's hardly the place for a sideline reporter to attempt hard-hitting journalism. I think Cox took a shot, knowing that her career is as a sideline reporter -- a position with little opportunities for advancement. She simply doesn't have many opportunities for hard-hitting, or even interesting journalism. Sideline reporters collect soundbites and kick it back up to the booth for discussion.

I also think that Cox should have made a better read of the situation, after Winston answered her first three investigation-related questions with anecdotes about his team. I also think Cox, despite her claim to the contrary, was way out of bounds. I think Cox knew it would end the interview, and that's why she saved it for last.

Of course, I can see Cox's side as well.

This was the first interview opportunity for Winston since the announcement. Winston did release a statement Thursday, but did not take questions, as he was taking a final exam before football practice.

Cox claims that she and ESPN told Florida State's Sports Information staff, and coach Jimbo Fisher, that she planned to ask questions about the investigation, and that Florida State had approved of her doing it in that way. She also claims that she did not try to ambush him at the last second with a question that had not been discussed.

I don't know if I believe Heather Cox. Florida State has not commented on the record about this, but Winston was clearly pulled away from the questioning, as you can see in the video. Note that he was not pulled away during the first three investigation-related questions, but on the fourth, which was in no way related to football. I do not believe FSU would have approved of that question if it had been presented with it beforehand. I also know that off the record, Florida State's people were livid after the game. They could be heard on the broadcast saying "That's cheap, Heather." But it's not in FSU's interest to pick fights with ESPN, and I suspect that this issue will die down.

It's also a ridiculous question -- one that could be rephrased as "Jameis, why did you trust the judicial process and exercise your constitutional right to silence on the advice of your attorney?" What possible answer did Cox expect?

Cox also told Deitsch that she went and discussed the matter with Fisher in the tunnel, and that the matter was cleared up.

"It was important to me to clarify things," Cox said. "The last thing I wanted was for him to think I intentionally went against anyone's wishes. I pride myself on my integrity and my relationships that I have developed with these coaches and players. That is critical to me doing my job well. The last thing I wanted was for Coach Fisher to think I broke that trust."
Cox said she and Fisher spoke for five minutes in a tunnel after the trophy presentation. She said they have known each other for a long time and have a great working relationship. Cox said she could understand if he was frustrated by her questions but she did not want him to think that she blatantly disregarded a request not to ask something.
"I told him, 'Nobody ever told me not to ask about the investigation'. He said, 'I did not realize that.' I went on to tell him that if they had, I would have just declined to do the interview. I said I would not be doing my job if I did not ask. If I got Jameis and didn't ask questions about the investigation, considering this is the first time he was made available to talk, I'd be as heavily criticized today as I am already. I explained that to Coach, and after he realized that, he apologized and understood that there was a big misunderstanding. I felt much better after having that conversation.
Cox said she did not know the person who could be heard off-camera saying, "Heather, that's cheap" as Winston was pulled away. She thought it was someone who was part of the FSU traveling party but did not know the person specifically. "When I am doing interviews like that I have no idea what is going on around me," Cox said. "It's just me and the subject. I could tell there was a huge presence around me but I had no idea who was there."
Cox is assigned to the BCS title game so she will see Winston again prior to any potential postgame interview in the BCS title game.
"I've had a great relationship with him up until that point and I feel like at no point in that interview until he was pulled away [that] Jameis was getting uncomfortable," Cox said. "To the contrary, he seemed kind of relieved to be talking about it. ... I really felt like he was comfortable with what we were doing until he was pulled away. At that moment, I think he got really nervous, as anybody would getting pulled away from a live interview and not really knowing why. It did not end the way any of us wanted to."

I saw Fisher for most of the postgame when he was in the tunnel, and I did not see the claimed interaction, but it very well could have happened, and I doubt Cox would have made up the encounter.

Still, I do not think Cox should be fired. And she should not be receiving threats on Twitter or otherwise.


The Numerical, Week 15: Auburn's efficiency, Connor Cook's improvement, and losing by winning - SBNation.com

53.7 -- Auburn's success rate (as defined here) in Saturday's 59-42 SEC Championship win over Missouri. The game featured 1,211 yards and 101 points, but the Tigers from southeastern Alabama held the edge because of efficiency; they had it, and Missouri didn't.

While Missouri had plenty of big plays throughout the course of the game -- a 65-yard run by Henry Josey, catches of 55 and 37 yards by Dorial Green-Beckham, a late 43-yard catch for Marcus Lucas -- Mizzou managed only a 45 percent success rate on standard downs. Auburn's rate on such downs was 65 percent, and while neither team fared well on passing downs, Auburn faced far fewer of them.

Both teams' running backs fared well on Saturday. Auburn's averaged 7.6 yards per carry, and Missouri's averaged 8.9. But thanks to down-and-distance issues and a late deficit (not to mention the fact that Missouri simply throws a lot more than Auburn), Auburn backs rushed 53 times, and Missouri's rushed 19 times. Tre Mason was obviously the story of the game with 304 yards on 46 carries, but Auburn's ability to create easy yards on first downs and its success in sticking with Plan A (Mason right, Mason left, Mason up the middle) was the difference. What an offensive performance.

To beat Auburn, you must get them to 2nd-&-7+ and 3rd-&-5+. They're an option team.

Jameis Winston is going to win the Heisman. I've told our readers this for over a month now, and the claim has only become stronger. At current betting odds, I would have to wager $150,000 just to cover the cost of a trip to New York to cover the ceremony. There are five other finalists, and none of them have a prayer.

Six 2013 Heisman Trophy finalists announced, and the internet reacts - SBNation.com
Jameis Winston should win easily, but who becomes the runner-up? And who were this year's biggest snubs?

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