FSU's $425-Million In Federal Funding At Stake

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Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake for Florida State University.

An ongoing investigation into the Jameis Winston sexual assault case could potentially cost the university all of its federal funding.

As federal law stands right now, it's all or nothing.

The university will either be found to have no fault in how it handled the Winston case or potentially lose more than $400-million in federal funding.

When FSU quarterback Jameis Winston was investigated for rape accusations, prosecutors determined there wasn't enough evidence to charge him.

But based on a complaint, federal investigators from the department of education are now looking at what's called a Title IX case to see if the university handled the complaint fairly.

"You don't have a Title IX case simply because somebody got raped. You have to show some fault on the part of the university," said Tallahassee attorney Rick Johnson.

In this past budget year ending June 30th, FSU received a total of roughly $425-million in federal funding.

The university's total operating budget for that fiscal year was roughly $1.25-billion.

So the federal funding is roughly a third of the total budget dollars.

"I don't think FSU could go on as a nationally ranked university if it lost all its federal funding," said Johnson.

Florida State leaders are certainly taking the investigation seriously.

In July, FSU Interim President Garnett Stokes told Eyewitness News the school is hiring a Title IX Director with a special focus on sexual assault.

That position is expected to be filled in the coming weeks.

"I tnink the primary thing it will do is provide leadership at the administrative level," Stokes told Eyewitness News July 22nd.

Even though it's possible, it would be unprecedented for FSU to lose all its federal money due to results of the Winston case.

"The department of education is not going to do that, it's politically suicidal for Obama, for the department of education," Johnson said.

While it's currently an all or nothing proposition for universities facing Title IX investigations, Congress is currently looking at the possibility of incremental punishments including fines.

When many people think about Title IX rules, they think about how schools are required to have an equal playing field so to speak for women's sports to get federal money.

"The other half of it is gender discrimination of any sort," said Tallahassee Attorney Rick Johnson.

Johnson notes the Obama Administration is now specifically focusing on sexual assault cases on campus.

FSU quarterback Jameis Winston is the focus of one of 79 open investigations across the country.

Federal investigators began looking at the case in April.

Johnson says the stakes for Winston are high based on what FSU might do once the feds are done.

"They could do things up to and including kicking him out of school," Johnson said.

Interim FSU President Garnett Stokes told Eyewitness News in July she was in the process of hiring a Title IX director.

"For me this is about doing what's in the best interests of the students, the staff and the faculty on this campus," Stokes said July 22nd.

A final hiring decision for FSU's Title IX director is pending.

Earlier this month, Stokes kicked off the "No More" campaign to prevent sexual violence on campus at the student union.

Less than two weeks later in the same place, Winston stood up and shouted an obscene phrase about a sex act with a woman while being the subject of the ongoing federal investigation.

Currently, schools face losing all or none of their federal funds based on Title IX investigations.

A school has never lost all of its federal funding due to a Title IX investigation.

Congress is considering other gradual punishment possibilities including fines.

Johnson believes the feds will be done with the FSU/Winston case in a few weeks because of the groundwork from the Tallahassee Police investigation into the rape accusation against the quarterback.

A new Title IX sexual violence investigation began at the University of South Florida earlier this month.

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