Even as Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher says he believes that quarterback Jameis Winston didn't sign autographs for money, a source tells ESPN that the university's athletic compliance department has begun to look into how so many Winston autographs were authenticated by a single company.
ESPN has learned that after the team's 38-20 win Saturday against Syracuse, Fisher approached Winston and asked him whether he signed autographs for money. Winston told Fisher, according to the source, that he did not.
Fisher then told reporters he wasn't concerned that an autograph-authentication business, which recently was linked to suspended Georgia running back Todd Gurley, also was linked to Winston.
James Spence Authentication certified more than 500 autographs of Gurley, who is being investigated for allegedly taking money for signings.
A cursory search on JSA's website found more than 340 certified Winston autographs. An additional search later on Monday revealed 600 more Winston autographs that had been authenticated and logged into the company's website verification system for a total of more than 950 autographs.
FSU has not been contacted on the matter by the ACC or the NCAA, but the university's compliance department has begun to specifically look into how JSA received such a large number of signatures.
Each of Spence's authenticated items comes with a card that says "it is our considered opinion that the items are genuine," but the contract that is signed with JSA by the person submitting the items says that "no warranty or representation and shall have no liability whatsoever to the customer for the opinion rendered."
James Spence, founder of James Spence Authentication, which authenticated more than 900 Winston signed items, told ESPN on Tuesday that he is "very confident" that the autographs his team authenticated of Winston were indeed signed by the Florida State quarterback.
He also said that the idea that Winston would have signed these items for a bunch of fans at different times is highly unlikely.
"The way they are sequenced does mean they were submitted at the same time by a person," Spence said. "I can't imagine that fans would get together to do that."
Fisher had a different take this past weekend.
"Kids sign things all the time," Fisher said after Saturday's game. "So what do you want them to do, stop signing stuff? We could make them not have any fans from that standpoint and not sign for anybody. That's what it's going to come to, and that's a shame for college football, that somebody exploits a kid. Now, if they're getting paid for it, then I don't have any knowledge of that. I don't believe Jameis did."
Despite Fisher's theory that the items could have come from different fans, it's doubtful they came from more than a few people.
Authenticators certify an autograph by attaching a serial number to an item. That serial number then links back to the authenticator's website, where the owner of that signature or a prospective buyer can look it up.
JSA authenticates items as it receives them and attaches the serial numbers in sequential order. JSA authenticated 432 signed jersey numbers with serial numbers J62424 through J62659 and serial numbers J72790 through J72992. JSA authenticated 117 16-by-20 photos (J70005 through J70121), 77 of the same Florida State logo footballs (J65886 through J65962), 73 white jerseys (J61437 through J61509) and 68 of the same signed mini helmets with serial numbers J66829 through J66896. The company also authenticated 55 jerseys (J66947 through J67001), 39 11-by-14 photos (J66026 through J66064), 20 signed pylons (J70609 through J70628), 18 of the same footballs (J66919 through J66936) and 11 signed Rawlings baseballs (J66898 through J66911).
"The items that I've seen signed by Todd Gurley and Jameis Winston, which have been authenticated by JSA, look like they came from an autograph signing," said Martin Buckley, co-owner of Palm Beach Autographs in Florida, which has done signings with Heisman Trophy winners Tim Tebow, Herschel Walker and Charlie Ward, among others. "This is based on the items themselves being similar, the quantities of those items, the consistency of signature as well as similar spots in which they signed."
Winston already faces an upcoming disciplinary hearing to determine whether he violated the school's conduct code in an alleged sexual assault in December 2012. Fisher said Monday that Winston, who sat out the Clemson game for yelling an obscene phrase in the student union, won't miss any games in the meantime.
"The facts are the facts," Fisher said. "There is no victim because there was no crime."