Florida State isn’t yet ready to make any decisions about the status of star running back Dalvin Cook.
Coach Jimbo Fisher said on Tuesday that Cook’s standing will be up in the air until the completion of the investigation into the domestic violence allegations against him. On July 11, Cook turned himself into police after he was charged with misdemeanor battery. He’s accused of striking a woman outside of a Tallahassee bar in late June.
Freshman quarterback De’Andre Johnson was recently dismissed when security camera footage showed him punching a woman in the face. No such evidence against Cook has been revealed. Fisher plans to wait until he sees all of the information in Cook’s case before deciding whether he, too, will be dismissed.
“I can’t comment on the other one until that case has run its course. We’ll see where that goes,” Fisher said. “Right now, we know of one, and then we’ll wait until the facts of the other one. I cannot speak on that one because it’s an ongoing investigation.”
Fisher said the disparity in his response to Johnson’s charge and Cook’s charge isn’t tied to the profiles of both players. He pointed to the cases of Jarmon Fortson, Greg Dent, Greg Reid and Ukeme Eligwe as proof that he isn’t hesitant to kick star players off his team. All of those players were dismissed for violations of team rules. Dent was suspended before the 2013 season because of a domestic violence charge.
“We’ve kicked significant players off our team,” Fisher said. “As far as punishing those guys, if the offenses are justified, then we definitely do it. It doesn’t matter how good of a player you are or what you are. Each case is different, and you have to wait and see the facts of it before it comes out.”
Fisher said that it is Florida State policy that if a player hits a woman, he is dismissed.
Yet, while Fisher will wait and see what evidence is brought against Cook before deciding on his future with the Seminoles, he is preparing for the possibility that Cook won’t be available. Cook and his legal team plan to take the case to court and seek a complete dismissal or innocent verdict. Cook’s first court date is set for Sept. 2. Florida State’s season opener against Texas State is on Sept. 5.
“You may not have him at all,” Fisher said. “I’m going with the guys we have and the guys who are at the position. It’s the next guy up. As I keep saying that about our players, you forget — if (Mario) Pender doesn’t turn his ankle at Syracuse, you might not have seen Dalvin. You forget that day, Pender had almost 60 yards in a quarter and had two touchdowns … We have very good players. Jacques (Patrick), (Johnathan) Vickers, everybody else, those are all great players. We always go as if: What if he turns his ankle or blew his knee? Those are things you always plan on.”
In the meantime, Fisher said he and the university have taken significant steps to prevent further instances like Johnson’s or Cook’s. He said that the players have, indeed, been banned from going to bars and clubs. It wasn’t a dictatorial decision, though. It was made in collaboration with the players.
“We banned them from putting themselves in bad situations,” Fisher said. “As a team, as a group, we decided to keep ourselves out of those positions. They are not going. They elected to, and we elected to educate them about that … it’s a collective ban.”
Not all of the measures that have been taken are new ones, though. Fisher said that his team goes through 40 days of off-field education and character development each year. He’s worked closely with the Navy SEALs to teach his players about making good decisions.
The Seminoles have partnered with NFL quarterback Russell Wilson on a domestic violence initiative. Fisher had scheduled two domestic violence seminars for August. One of those was moved forward and has already been given to the team, while the other is still on the schedule before the 2015 season.