HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — The Florida State football team had not yet spent a full day in South Florida before one of its players ran into trouble.
The school suspended starting linebacker A.J. Nicholson on Thursday after he allegedly sexually assaulted a woman at the team hotel in Hollywood. Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said the senior will not play in Tuesday’s Orange Bowl game against Penn State.
“A.J. will be sent home and suspended from this ball game for violating a team rule and policy,” Bowden said. “That’s about all I will say about it.”
Hollywood police said a little more. The police department is investigating an allegation that Nicholson sexually assaulted a woman at the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa.
“Around 3 o’clock in the morning we received a phone call from a 19-year-old female. She called (to report) that allegedly she had been sexually assaulted by a player from FSU. He was later identified as A.J. Nicholson,” Hollywood Police Det. Carlos Negron said. “He has been cooperating with the detectives. He came here, gave a statement and he was released.”
Nicholson spent a couple of hours at the Hollywood Police Department and left about 10:30 a.m. Thursday. Negron said Nicholson was given permission to leave town and stated there would be no immediate arrest in the case. He said detectives are still conducting interviews and seeking any potential witnesses. Negron could not say if any other players were involved.
“(The investigation) is going to take a while. If we need him, we’ll call him,” Negron said. “It could be days, weeks or months.”
The alleged victim was taken to a rape/assault treatment center in Fort Lauderdale, Negron said, and was later interviewed by police.
Negron confirmed that if a charge was filed it likely would be for sexual battery. He said the earliest that evidence would be presented to the state attorney’s office would be Tuesday.
“If we can prove that he had raped the victim, he would be charged with sexual battery,” Negron said. “But it’s an allegation still.”
Negron would not say whether Nicholson denied the charges.
Nicholson’s status during the preseason was uncertain because of two earlier incidents. He pleaded no contest this summer to a DUI charge that dated back to February, and a June charge of resisting arrest was dropped by the state attorney’s office. He was not suspended by the team for either incident.
Nicholson was a second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection after making a team-high 100 tackles. He also had two interceptions.
Buster Davis will move to Nicholson’s strong-side linebacker spot, and Sam McGrew will start at middle linebacker. Derrick Nicholson, A.J.’s younger brother, is expected to back up McGrew.