NORMAN — Joe Mixon’s punishment is harsh. And I don’t mean the season-long suspension.
The OU freshman tailback was removed from the football team Monday after being charged with one misdemeanor count of an “act resulting in gross injury.” No practice. No spot on the roster. No status with the team.
But that’s a small stigma to overcome compared to what Mixon faces for far beyond a solitary season. He’s the guy who hit the girl.
No plea, no verdict, no court decision of any kind, will change that. Mixon has begun a sentence that will take years to serve. She said something, he said something, she slapped him. All just background noise, no matter the extenuating circumstances. When Mixon slugged Amelia Rae Molitor, he branded himself. And now Mixon lives with the consequences, which will get only worse if the videotape of the incident is released and shows what district attorney Greg Mashburn said it shows.
For as long as he’s a Sooner, Mixon will be the guy who hit the girl. If Mixon ends up at another college, he’ll be the guy who went to Oklahoma and hit the girl. When he goes to the NFL Combine in some February to come, Mixon will be the guy who hit the girl.
That’s why Mashburn kept using the term “against public morals” last Friday when announcing the charge. It’s hard to argue. Four weeks of state debate over whether it’s ever OK to hit a woman didn’t change the fact that a 220-pound football player slugged a coed half his size. No matter how intoxicated or obnoxious she might have been, Mixon found trouble at 2:30 a.m. and stepped into it, not away from it.
So it’s hard to feel sorry for Mixon. The suspension is stout, no doubt. When the district attorney charged Mixon only with a misdemeanor, I thought Mixon might get a half-season banishment. But then I read David Boren’s letter to the editor on The Oklahoman’s editorial Monday page.
“OU seeks to be a role model for other colleges and universities by setting the highest possible standards for players, coaches and staff,” Boren wrote. “Playing on a team teaches student athletes firsthand about teamwork, time management and self-discipline. It should also teach them the importance of personal integrity and tolerance and respect for others.”
That’s what Boren wrote. What he meant was that Mixon and linebacker Franklin Shannon, who is in court fighting suspension from the university after an OU panel found that he violated the school’s sexual misconduct policy, damaged OU’s reputation and embarrassed the football program. Good luck, Shannon, on seeing the field yourself this season.
Football is important at places like Oklahoma. But it can be trumped. If the masses start wondering if their daughters are safe on campus, beating Texas no longer is the prime mission.
Coupled with the decision to bring in troubled Missouri transfer Dorial Green-Beckham, Boren isn’t happy with his football players. And when Boren ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
So Mixon now has a choice. Keep his nose clean for a year and try to restart a college football career that seemed so promising. He’s still got a chance to be cheered. He’ll still be the guy who hit the girl, but he’s stuck with that label whether he scores touchdowns or not, whether he figures out there’s nothing charming about 2:30 a.m. or not, whether he gets his degree or not. Might as well get your life on track.
When Mixon lost his cool in the witching hour of July 25, Mixon’s message to Bob Stoops and David Boren was simple: He wasn’t all that serious about playing football at OU. Now Mixon gets the chance to show them that he is serious about being a Sooner and can start rebuilding the reputation of the guy who hit the girl.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.