Seminoles suspend LB Nicholson, send him home

Updated: December 29, 2005, 9:21 PM ET
Associated Press

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Florida State's leading tackler was suspended by the team and questioned by police Thursday after a 19-year-old woman accused him of sexually assaulting her.

A decision regarding whether to charge senior linebacker A.J. Nicholson will be made following the completion of an investigation expected to extend into next week, police said.

Nicholson was released by detectives and sent home by the Seminoles, who arrived Wednesday to play Penn State in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2. Coach Bobby Bowden said Nicholson was suspended for violating a team rule.

The woman called police Thursday at 3 a.m. -- two hours after the team's curfew -- and said she had been assaulted by a Florida State player, later identified as Nicholson, police detective Carlos Negron said. The alleged assault occurred at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa, where the Seminoles are staying.

Nicholson went to the police station voluntarily and was questioned for two hours, Negron said. The woman also was interviewed by detectives and taken to a rape treatment center.

Negron declined to give further details because the case remains open.

Nicholson has started every game the past two seasons and led the Seminoles this year with 100 tackles.

He pleaded no contest to misdemeanor DUI earlier this year.

The 22-year-old Nicholson is from Winston-Salem, N.C. His brother, Derek, is a freshman linebacker for the Seminoles.

When asked about the impact of the suspension on the rest of the team, Bowden said, "You learn lessons from other people's mistakes." The coach declined further comment.

Linebackers coach Kevin Steele said he would consider several moves to fill Nicholson's spot. One possibility is switching middle linebacker Buster Davis to the outside to replace Nicholson, with junior Sam McGrew moving into the starting lineup at middle linebacker, Steele said.

Florida State (8-4) is ranked 22nd, and Penn State (10-1) is ranked third. The game is the first matchup in 15 years between Bowden and Joe Paterno, who are one-two in career coaching victories.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press