PINEHURST, N.C. -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said that he is "disappointed" with the recent issues within his program and that he places the responsibility on himself as the Seminoles' coach.
"Just like it is anywhere else in the country, you as the head coach take responsibility, and you continue to educate," Fisher said. "You hope they don't make mistakes, and when they do, you punish and adjust and continue to educate so they don't do it again."
The sixth-year coach said he has always had a zero-tolerance policy regarding violence against women and has dismissed the player in both instances in which Fisher felt the evidence compelled the punishment. Greg Dent was dismissed from the football team before the 2013 season, and De'Andre Johnson earlier this month.
In September 2014 Dent was found not guilty of sexual assault after he was accused of raping a female friend, but he was found guilty of misdemeanor battery. Johnson was dismissed on July 6 after video showed the former Florida State quarterback punching a woman at a Tallahassee bar. He was charged with misdemeanor battery.
A few days after Johnson's ban, star running back Dalvin Cook was also charged with misdemeanor battery after it was alleged he punched a woman multiple times outside a Tallahassee bar in June. Fisher said Tuesday that Johnson was a "tremendous guy" but that within his program there is "no tolerance for hitting women." The coach said he would not comment on Cook's situation until the legal process is completed, and he has been suspended indefinitely from the team.
Fisher said Tuesday that during a recent meeting the team agreed to avoid bars and other potentially troublesome areas or situations in a decision he said was made with input from the players.
"They said they're not putting themselves in those positions," he said, as quoted in The Palm Beach Post. "It's a collective ban. They collectively as a group said the same thing, 'We don't need to be in there.' " The list includes, "bars and clubs and late hours; that's when those things happen.
"You wouldn't think you would have to say (don't hit a woman), but you do. We'll continue to do that and we'll do it in even a greater force now to educate our guys about not doing it and how to avoid those situations totally. And hopefully they'll listen," he said.
At least six Florida State players have been accused of violence against women under Fisher's watch, but there have been few charges or convictions. Fisher said he is not minimizing the issue of violence against women.
"We've always taken a strong stance against it," he said.
Fisher said the staff searches records and conducts background checks when recruiting players "as much as we possibly can." Florida State spends at least 40 days a year developing players off the field, Fisher said, but the team plans to add to that. The players are in a new four-step program following the recent arrests and are coming off a five-hour seminar that was originally planned for August, he said. The week before Johnson allegedly punched the woman, Fisher said that former Navy SEALs spoke with the team about making good off-the-field decisions.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Fisher have become friends, and Wilson will work with the Seminoles program as part of his "Pass the Peace" campaign, which supports victims of domestic violence. Fisher also said he is consulting with Bob Delaney, a former NBA official and undercover FBI agent who has been brought in as a guest speaker to address the Seminoles team the last few years.
With the off-the-field headlines that have surrounded the Seminoles the past two seasons, Fisher said he does worry about the perception of his program.
"You want to change perception, you have to have continual performance in the right way for long periods of time," he said. "I don't think what's happened at Florida State is relative to just Florida State. It happens all over the country. We get more attention because of the success of our program, and we accept that, and our players have to accept that responsibility.
"... You're judged on what you do, and we've had a couple instances like other people have had, too. It's not a Florida State problem or athletic problem. It's a problem all across our country. There are always issues in the country that are hot spots at the time that get the news. And we don't tolerate [violence against women] and don't accept it."