Less than a month before the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2015 NFL Draft, the cloud hanging over Jameis Winston's head appears to be clearing.
The Florida State quarterback's attorney on Sunday tweeted a statement indicating Winston would not be charged with violations of the school's code of conduct. It was followed by the release of a letter to Winston, obtained by USA Today, from former Florida Supreme Court chief justice Major Harding, who was picked by FSU to oversee the hearing.
"This was a complex case, and I worked hard to make sure both parties had a full and fair opportunity to present information," Harding said in the letter. "In sum, the preponderance of the evidence has not shown that you are responsible for any of the charge violations of the Code. Namely, I find that the evidence before me is insufficient to satisfy the burden of proof."
Winston's code-of-conduct hearing centered on an alleged sexual assault of a female student at the school in 2012. The hearing ended on Dec. 3 after two days of testimony from various parties in Tallahassee and took place shortly before the team's appearance in the ACC Championship.
Sunday's announcement does come as a surprise as a ruling wasn't expected until next month at the earliest.
The case is not over, however, as Florida State policy, according to reports, allows either the woman at the center of the case or Winston to appeal the decision. The earliest the appeals process could get started would be Jan. 13, the day after the National Championship Game and two days before the deadline for college underclassmen to declare their draft intentions.
The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner is one of the most polarizing players in college football and carries an equally split opinion among NFL scouts. Some have labeled Winston one of the top quarterback prospects in the sport while others have called him a 'nightmare' due to his issues on and off the field.
NFL Media analyst Charles Davis believes the redshirt sophomore is one of a number of players who should return for another year of school instead of declaring for the 2015 draft. The code-of-conduct ruling in his favor would appear to make such a return more feasible, although most expect him to declare.
Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said this week that it wouldn't surprise him either way what Winston decides. and noted the two are going to have a talk soon about the signal-caller's prospects for the upcoming draft.
Winston and Florida State play Oregon in a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.