So, Bob Stoops, was it worth it?
I watched the video Friday afternoon of Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon hitting Amelia Molitor, the video we’d all heard about for three years, the video you and your bosses watched and basically shrugged off. You remember that video, right? (You lucked out! If you don’t recall the details, it’s now available online for everyone to see. Here’s a link, if you don’t have one handy.) You all watched that video and decided that yes, this was a young man you wanted representing your program. You decided a redshirt season year’s suspension would help him get bigger/faster/stronger be sufficient punishment.
I watched Mixon’s fist connect with the side of Molitor’s head and I gagged reflexively. I thought I was going to throw up right there, in my car, in the Costco parking lot, as I watched this despicable act of violence play out. I’d heard it was bad, and jarring. It was so much worse than I imagined. But I swallowed the reality that women aren’t valued in our society, and kept watching, just like you, athletic director Joe Castiglione and president David Boren did a few years ago. No wonder so many people fought behind the scenes to keep this video under wraps. How can anyone move forward after this? Oh wait, I remember: You’re both scheduled to participate in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2.
Congratulations on going 21-4 with Mixon around, by the way. You have no national championship to show for it, but this type of success is what you were hoping for, right? You kept him because he was a good player (five stars, ranked No. 1 at his position nationally, with offers from nearly every top 25 school) not because he was some beacon of good citizenship. Had Mixon been a walk-on with no scholarship offers you would have kicked him off without a second thought, because a player like that isn’t helpful to you. Nah, this is about the bottom line, the win-loss record and hey, I get it. You’re paid a lot of money to win games and big-time football success typically translates into big-time money for schools. You’re just trying to hang onto your job, right?
What’s ironic, if you’ll indulge me for a moment, is that now this will be hanging on you forever. College programs center around the head coach, always, and you are the face of Oklahoma football—not Joe Mixon, who will be off to the NFL next month, not Castiglione, not Boren. This one is on you. Mixon can’t be punished again—and if he is, he’d have a great legal case against the university—and you’ve dodged or dismissed questions about this for over two years. Now that we’ve all been able to see what your standards really are, what will you say to defend them?
Probably you’ll say that we shouldn’t be surprised by any of this and if we’re being honest, I’m really not. That you, Castiglione and Boren prioritized the football team’s needs (evidently one good running back, Samaje Perine, is not enough) above the safety of your students, well heck, you guys have a history of that, as one of your other students astutely pointed out in the school newspaper last week. Your boss’s response was borderline comical in the way it breezed past concerns about Mixon and former receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Of course, not respecting or valuing women is a problem at football programs across the country, from Mississippi State to Baylor to Tennessee to Florida State. You’re hardly the only example. You’re just the latest.
It seems feasible to take a stand like Charlie Strong has, and say that if you hit a woman, you can’t play for him but clearly that doesn’t mean much to decision makers, right? Strong lost his job because he didn’t win enough games, character be damned, and you’re coasting into a New Year’s Six game. Cheers!
I’m not naïve enough to think this issue of violence against women is going to be fixed overnight, that suddenly every college football coach is America is going to wake up and value human beings over bowl bonuses. But I wish they would just admit that. Had you stood before the media three years ago and explained that yes, Mixon made a mistake, but that you believed he could help your football team—and you, in turn, could possibly help him grow up and change—I would have still been angry but I would've had at least a shred of respect for you being honest. As a country, we’re keen on second chances, and we love a good comeback story. Instead you guys shielded Mixon from the media, blamed his lawyers for his silence (a pathetic game of pass the buck) and hoped this would come out after he was off to the pros. Looks like you need a new game plan.
As I watched the video, I also thought about Brenda Tracy. A passionate advocate for survivors and sexual assault prevention and a woman whose strength inspires me every day, Tracy has built a public relationship with Oklahoma football because you, Bob Stoops, have said you want to help her create change. What do you think she felt when she saw that video? She has publicly defended you and your program, said that she sees good in you—is she wrong? Do you really believe in Tracy’s message, or was it just a good political play to align yourself with her? I’m not sure I want to know the answer.
A year ago, I wondered what your reaction would have been if Mixon’s victim had been your daughter, Mackenzie, and not Molitor. I heard you were furious that I “made it personal.” Never mind the fact that Mixon’s punch was personal to Molitor and her family; I wrote about Mackenzie in hopes of provoking an emotional response because this should be personal.
After watching the video, I’m worried an honest answer from you would go something like this: “So long as he runs a good 40 time, I don’t care what he does off the field, or who he does it to.”
Hope he was worth it.