Heather Cox Out of Line

As I have said over this platform before, I enjoy sideline reporters and think they have a purpose during a sports broadcast. Because I do follow sideline reporters and appreciate what they do, when one does generate controversy because of their work, I definitely like to assess the situation and decide for myself whether the criticism is warranted or not. Such a situation presented itself on national television this past Saturday.

Although she didn’t make my Top 3 Favorite Sideline Reporters list, I have never had a problem with Heather Cox. However, I think she went over the line after the ACC Championship game.

On Saturday evening, Florida State defeated Duke to seal a spot in the BCS National Championship. As the celebration started, Heather Cox interviewed star quarterback Jameis Winston. I imagine most of you are already aware (and if you are not, go here) that the week leading up to the game it was announced that Jameis Winston would not be charged with an assault crime. An investigation into Winston started in the middle of the season and generated a lot of coverage, with the culmination resulting in the state attorney’s announcement that charges would not be filed. As Brent Musburger swung it over to Cox for the interview with Winston, many wondered what direction she would take it.

Before I explain how Heather Cox conducted the interview, let me briefly explain my opinion on what I felt was appropriate and inappropriate to pursue during the Q&A. I believe that she should have left any and all inquiries about the investigation and possible charges unasked. I think as a college student-athlete, you should not have to speak to legal issues on the playing field, especially issues where the player was not charged. Yep, I definitely think Cox should have stayed away from it completely. BUT, if she did want to go down that road I felt she should have asked it quickly at the end of the interview in a broad theme of “you overcame a lot of adversity this week, how did you manage to do it?” without mentioning any specifics. That is my opinion.

The way that Heather Cox actually went about the interview with Jameis Winston made me feel just a little sick. She didn’t stay away from the issue and she didn’t gracefully reference it either. Instead, she made the whole post-game interview entirely about the investigation. I think I counted four questions referring to it. Although probably not in the most eloquent manner possible, Winston stuck in there for most of the interview and answered the questions. However, by the end of the interview with Cox not relenting at all, Winston walked away, an action that I totally support. In a moment where the quarterback just guided his team to the BCS National Championship, the focus should have centered on his solid play, his Heisman aspirations, and his rapid emergence as one of the most exciting players in college football…not a closed investigation.

Unfortunately, I think Jameis Winston got wronged twice within 12 hours. First by Cox, then by his own attorney. In an act of immaturity and hastiness, Tim Jansen (Winston’s lawyer) went to Twitter to rip Cox. Responding to a tweet that Cox composed that had absolutely nothing to do with Winston, Jansen wrote in shorthand that Cox was unprofessional and inappropriate (which is true but he didn’t need to air that out over Twitter). He then demanded that Cox write a letter of apology and submit it to him so that he could then give it to the Winston family. Finally, six hours later he was so nice to send out another tweet updating everyone that Cox had not sent him that note of apology.

Guess what, Tim?! It’s not coming.

I truly believe Heather Cox was wrong in the way she conducted the interview. Even if Florida State set no restrictions, she should still use a little bit of common sense. Oh, and I know for a fact that there should be enough common sense to go around for the lawyer to use too. For those of us who love college athletics, many of us know that many times the student-athletes are the most mature individuals in the bunch. Instead of telling off Cox after that last question or sending out Tweets of his own, Winston did the best thing he possibly could…he walked away. Don’t Blink.