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Fisher: FSU has no tolerance for hitting women

PINEHURST, N.C. — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher says he is reconsidering the way he conveys messages to his players, especially when it comes to stressing the importance of not acting violently toward women.

The Florida State football program has come under fire following two incidents that occurred within a day of each other in June. Those events, and the way the school has responded to each one, were the primary topics of conversation for nearly the first 30 minutes of Fisher’s hour-long press conference at the ACC Kickoff Tuesday.

“There’s no tolerance for hitting women,” Fisher said.

“… You think you would never, ever have to say that.”

Fisher is implementing a four-step plan that includes spending more time teaching how to prevent domestic violence after FSU had two players charged with misdemeanor battery stemming from two separate incidents in June. Sophomore running back Dalvin Cook was accused of hitting a woman outside a Tallahassee bar on June 23 and freshman quarterback De’Andre Johnson was accused of punching a different woman in the face at a different bar in Tallahassee the following night. FSU has since implemented a ban on going to bars and nightclubs, Fisher confirmed.

Johnson’s incident was caught on a security camera and he was dismissed from the team shortly after the video surfaced. Cook, whose attorney denied the running back hit the woman, was suspended indefinitely as Fisher and FSU wait for new developments in the investigation.

Fisher said FSU has invested significant time and resources into trying to inform its players about the consequences of several issues, primarily drug and alcohol use and domestic violence. He estimated that it spent about 40 days a year going over these topics with players since he became a head coach in 2010, using outside speakers and seminars to try and develop character-building skills.

For instance, FSU paid a combined $224,000 to Athletes Performance — now EXOS — on two different purchase orders in 2014, according to documents obtained by the Sentinel through a public-information request. EXOS specializes in several areas, including mental conditioning for athletes.

“We’ve done it from the very first day I’ve been there,” Fisher said. “We don’t publicize it a lot. But just like now, like a game plan, as people adjust and different things occur, you add to your game plan.”

FSU has been under scrutiny recently for the way it punishes its athletes, with many national media outlets stating Fisher is too lenient and enables his players. Fisher dismissed the claims Tuesday, pointing to marquee players — such as wide receiver Greg Dent, cornerback Greg Reid and linebacker Ukeme Eligwe — that he’s dismissed in recent years after they got into trouble off the field.

Fisher later specified that he has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to violence against women.

“That’s our (policy.) You’ve seen the two instances that were fact with Greg Dent and De’Andre,” Fisher said. “The circumstances with each case, you wait for the facts to come out.”

Johnson, according to Fisher, had zero red flags coming out of high school and is someone he would recruit “over and over again” because of his previous background.

“He was a good guy who had a bad choice,” Fisher said. “He made a poor decision at a very critical moment.”

Asked if he was minimizing Johnson’s actions by defining the allegation as a bad choice, Fisher pointed to Johnson’s dismissal from the team.

“The punishment shows it was a major poor choice,” Fisher said. “I’m not minimizing anything. At all. But he had never done anything wrong in his past, but he made one major mistake. I’m not minimizing it at all.”

Fisher added that he’s waiting for more details to emerge from Cook’s case before he makes a decision.