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Oklahoma football: Destroying the 'wrong place at the wrong time' myth

JOE MIXON — Wrong place at the wrong time doesn’t always mean unlucky. Sometimes it means you placed yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. What can coaches and teammates do to get through to young players that being out late and around alcohol is a sure way to find trouble?
by Berry Tramel Modified: July 28, 2014 at 10:45 pm •  Published: July 26, 2014

Joe Mixon’s OU football career is in jeopardy before it’s even begun. Perhaps the most ballyhooed OU recruit since Adrian Peterson and Rhett Bomar didn’t even make it to August before drawing the interest of Norman peace officers.

An OU student says Mixon hit her early Friday morning, breaking four bones in her face. Norman police are investigating.

Who knows what happened and what will happen? Maybe Mixon is a thug, and if so, might as well discover it now, although that’s no consolation for the coed. If Mixon slugged a woman, he should be gone, regardless of the district attorney’s ultimate decision.

The patience for assaults on women is growing thin in the athletic arena, hither and yon. The ridiculously lenient NFL suspension of Ray Rice (two games for dragging his then-fiancee out of an elevator by the hair on her head) flamed the topic just a couple of days ago. And Bob Stoops has had to wrestle with the issue repeatedly this calendar year, first with the Frank Shannon sexual assault allegation, followed by OU’s decision to bring in transfer Dorial Green-Beckham, who at Missouri had been accused of pushing a female student down a flight of stairs.

Or maybe Mixon was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, which is not to be confused with bad luck. No matter what happened, Mixon put himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Campus Corner, just after the bars closed, 2:40 a.m.

It’s easy for all of us over 20 to say get your butt home at a reasonable hour.

Nothing good comes from seeking adventure between midnight and dawn. But that’s a lesson many have to learn from experience.

“When you’re 19 or 20 years old, I don’t know what you would say to ’em,” said Trent Smith, an all-Big 12 tight end at OU in 2002. “If you’re that age, and you’re away from home for the first time … I remember what I was like. It was very liberating.”

How do coaches preach against that?

“I don’t know what you do on that,” Smith said. “I’m sure that’s a question every major college football coach has asked himself a million times. I don’t know what you can say to ’em. You can scare ’em. But guys are going to be guys. They’re responsible for their actions. You can’t fix stupid.”

Paul Thompson, who quarterbacked OU to the 2006 Big 12 championship, remembers those times well.

“You get that freedom, you’re on your own for the first time in your life,” Thompson said. “A lot of players will take advantage of that. A lot of people. Students as well. You can now do things you wouldn’t do when you were living with your parents. Whether it’s good or bad, the party doesn’t have to stop when the street lights come on, like it did when you were at home.”

This is not necessarily a football problem or an athletic problem. It’s a student life problem. The only differences are, football players at schools like OU tend to draw attention, especially if alcohol is involved, and if things get wayward, the story makes the newspaper.

But athlete or not, let’s hear no more nonsense that every student walks on the edge, that every student tempts the fates. That’s not true and it’s a cop-out to say so.

There is one difference between the athlete and non-athlete: athletes are repeatedly warned about their fish bowl existence and the possible consequences.

Thompson said OU’s staff had student trainers who hung out with the players socially and would report to coaches if someone flirted with trouble. Stoops annually brings in speakers to talk to his team, including Norman police officials, who talk about driving under the influence, public intoxication, assault circumstances. “He educates players very, very well,” Thompson said. “It’s just a degree of responsibility each player has to have. Sometimes they slip up.”

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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Ron Rivers, a former NFL player and Joe Mixon’s coach at Freedom High School in Oakley, Calif., was surprised by the allegations made against Mixon.

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