PINEHURST (CBSMiami/AP) – The Florida State Seminoles football team has an image problem.
With off-field issues overshadowing his program once again, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said Tuesday the Seminoles are “stepping up” their process of educating players about domestic violence and other issues.
Speaking during the Atlantic Coast Conference’s preseason media days, Fisher said the program has started a four-step program to address problems and build on character-building exercises that have been part of FSU culture for years.
“It’s like coaching,” Fisher said. “What you learn: don’t take anything for granted. Try to cover as many things from A to Z as you possibly can to educate – don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t do that – to make sure you address every issue out there.
“You wouldn’t think you would have to say (don’t hit a woman), but you do. And we’ll continue to do that and we’ll do it even in a greater force now to educate our guys about not doing it and how to avoid those situations totally. And hopefully they’ll listen.”
Fisher’s comments came after a pair of high-profile allegations.
Running back Dalvin Cook has been suspended from the team indefinitely after it was alleged that he punched a woman outside a Tallahassee bar, which subsequently led to him being charged. That news came not long after freshman quarterback De’Andre Johnson was kicked off the team after video showed him punching a woman in the face in a bar.
“I don’t think what’s happening at Florida State is relative to Florida State,” Fisher said. “It’s happening all over this country. We get more attention of it because of the success of our program and I understand it. That’s part of winning. That’s part of being one of the top programs in America and I accept that responsibility and our players have to accept that responsibility. … But we have to continue to work on the problems we have.”
Johnson was not expected to be a key contributor for the Seminoles in 2015, but Cook is considered one of the top running backs in America. He set a FSU freshman record with 1,008 yards last season on 170 carries, with eight touchdowns.
Fisher said he could not comment on the Cook case specifically until the legal process plays out and facts are revealed, though did say he has not considered dismissing Cook from the team at this point.
“It’s a shame that we had the instance we had,” Fisher said, referring to Johnson. “The young man was a tremendous guy. Never been in trouble in his life, but he made a bad choice.”
Fisher spent roughly the first 20 minutes of his hourlong interview session with print reporters at the ACC Kickoff event answering questions about off-field issues.
He said FSU recently had a five-hour seminar focused on domestic violence, including role-playing exercises.
“We spend over 40 days a year on different, varying things from drugs, alcohol, those things,” Fisher said. “But again, when you see that that’s not enough, you continue to improve and expand what you have for your kids.”
Those incidents follow the Jameis Winston saga, which had the quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy and led FSU to a national championship as a freshman accused by a fellow student of rape. Winston – now a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – was never charged, but the case continually made national headlines along with Winston being cited in a grocery-store shoplifting incident tied to crab legs.
All the negative attention prompted FSU President John Thrasher to meet with players last week to reiterate that the off-field actions of the team must reflect well upon the university.
Asked about whether the team is banned from going to bars, for example, Fisher said the team has decided as a whole “to keep ourselves out of those positions. They are not going.”
“We’re under a microscope,” FSU kicker Roberto Aguayo said Monday. “That’s what you’re going to get when you come to Florida State. Everything you do is out in the public. It’s unfortunate but we’re learning from our mistakes and just moving on.”
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