The deadline for ballots to be filed isn't until 5 p.m. Monday. Important games will be played this weekend. But the 2013 Heisman Trophy race was decided at 1:54 p.m. ET Thursday.
When State Attorney Willie Meggs announced no charges would be filed against Jameis Winston, the suspense ended. If the entire idea seems unseemly — voters for a sports award were awaiting word from the legal system about results from a sexual assault investigation — it was likely also an uncomfortable reality for many.
This is, too: On Dec. 14, Winston will be announced as the winner of college football's most coveted award. The final results likely won't be close.
ASSAULT: No charges against Jameis Winston
HEISMAN RACE: Winston the clear leader
But Winston's indelible Heisman moment came not on the field but in a courthouse conference room, with this declaration from Meggs:
"The case is closed."
Or maybe it was this one: "We came to the decision there wasn't a case to bring forward. (There was) no reasonable likelihood of a conviction."
There's no reasonable way for anyone to feel very good about any of this.
On the field, this Heisman race wasn't suspenseful. Winston, a redshirt freshman, has been the catalyst in Florida State's unbeaten run through the regular season and to the top of the Bowl Championship Series standings. Other contenders faltered, and no surprise alternatives really emerged. But last month, news broke of an alleged sexual assault — a year ago Saturday. For more than three weeks as prosecutors investigated the allegations, the race was sent into limbo. So was Florida State's run at the Atlantic Coast Conference championship, and from there a shot at the BCS national championship.
ATTORNEY : Winston 'happy' with result
None of those things mattered when compared to the possibility that a young woman had been sexually assaulted. And Meggs said the investigation "has not been driven by Heisman demands or a football schedule." But the investigation inevitably played out as the football season and the Heisman race churned. It became a part of both. And although he remained the leader in various surveys, including the weekly poll of USA TODAY Sports voters, it also was clear many would wait to vote as long as possible, hoping for clarity.
The only way Winston doesn't win the Heisman is if, just maybe, Florida State is somehow upset by Duke in the ACC championship game Saturday and he plays very poorly. Even then, he'd likely remain the front-runner because there's no clear alternative candidate.
While Meggs said he declined to prosecute because he did not feel there was sufficient evidence to get a conviction — and the news conference and the accompanying documents provided sordid details that didn't cast Winston in a good light — Winston's attorney, Tim Jansen, countered by saying his client had been exonerated.
Last week, Jansen told USA TODAY Sports: "We would hope that the voters out there that are considering the Heisman Trophy would understand and realize that Mr. Winston has not been charged with any criminal act and we believe he will be exonerated."
But Jansen added: "I would think (the uncertainty) would harm his chances."
That uncertainty has been removed. Despite an unsavory signature moment, the Heisman Trophy race is all but certainly settled.
George Schroeder, a national college football reporter at USA TODAY Sports, is on Twitter @GeorgeSchroeder.
JAMEIS WINSTON'S CAREER HIGHLIGHTS