Fran Tarkenton Speaks Out on Florida State

“What this guy’s done, the accusation of rape, right, is a pretty serious accusation. That got swept under the rug. What he’s done there has all been swept under the rug.”  — Fran Tarkenton on Jameis Winston and Florida State

1986 Hall of Fame inductee Fran Tarkenton is easily one of the high points in the history of the Minnesota Vikings franchise. Although his playing time with the Vikings (1961 – 1966) was sometimes marred by conflicts with head coach Norm Van Brocklin, “The Mad Scrambler,” as the media called Tarkenton, did not have much in the way of off the field issues. He played the game clean and right.

As opposed to many players who leave the game, Tarkenton had very directed career ambitions. He got involved with computer software in the infancy of that industry and later on, in several successful entrepreneurial ventures as well as television.

Not afraid to speak out

Recently (October 22, 2014), Fran Tarkenton was interviewed by ESPN for an article entitled: “Fran Tarkenton rips Florida State for handling of Jameis Winston.”

Tarkenton ripped into Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and his off the field behavior, but more so he was critical of Florida State:

“The NFL teams, when the domestic violence came up, they suspended the guys. (Georgia) suspended Todd Gurley — they should have. All the stuff this guy’s done, they’ve covered it up, kicked the can down the (road), and shown no leadership at all.

How does Florida State come out of this thing as a distinguished educational operation in this country? No. It’s all about winning, we’re going to kick the can down the road. He’s our star quarterback, we can’t win without him, the national championship. And we’re going to sacrifice every principle we have and play this guy. They are so wrong, and everybody in America knows it…”

What is Fran Tarkenton trying to tell us?

For one thing, he is telling us that Winston’s behavior has been inexcusable, but more than that, his bad behavior has been reinforced by a university that places winning way above ethics.

I understand it; FSU football brings in a lot of money and a national championship is impressive – and lucrative. However, the university is willing to overlook obvious problems, including the destruction of their star quarterback, for a quick buck.

Winston and the university claims he signed 2,000 pieces of memorabilia without any payment or expectation of a payment. It seems ludicrous to almost everyone else in sports that Winston was not rewarded. It was not a randomized autograph signing; Winston signed hundreds of similar items, and apparently they have all been authenticated. So what are they covering up?

Is FSU’s program sacrificing every principle the school is supposed to stand for? It is hard to not agree with Tarkenton.

Multiple reports have been published telling us that the woman Winston is alleged to have raped, has been the subject of harassment and character assassination by the local police and the university itself. It is one thing to cover up autograph signings and petty theft, but quite another to harass a woman who is accusing Winston of rape. What exactly is being gained? What does this say to every woman on campus?

Old School versus the New?

There will undoubtedly be the usual collection of Winston/FSU apologists who will look back at Tarkenton’s career and dismiss his comments as the ramblings of an old school/old fool who doesn’t know what he is talking about. They would be wrong.

Fran Tarkenton was a professional when the professional game was still in its infancy, and he has seen the sport grow and prosper. He has witnessed every kind of behavior you can imagine. He has seen guys like Winston crumple up and fail. He understands that trophies and first-round choices are meaningless. What counts in addition to skills and smarts is character. Ryan Leaf had all the skill in the world; it meant nothing.

FSU is selling Winston out and what’s worse, it looks as though they are enjoying the process. I believe Tarkenton would agree.



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