Two men hold Joe Mixon’s fate in their hands. Greg Mashburn and Bob Stoops. The district attorney and the football coach.
First move is Mashburn’s. The D.A. has three primary options in the case of Mixon allegedly hitting an OU coed Friday morning after the bars closed on Campus Corner: 1) Aggravated assault and battery, a felony; 2) Misdemeanor assault and battery, or disorderly conduct; 3) no charges. Mixon’s own attorney has admitted that the OU tailback “instinctually defended himself” against the 20-year-old woman.
If Mashburn files a felony charge, Stoops has been relieved of his decision-making. There is nothing else to talk about. If the district attorney believes he can make an aggravated assault case against Mixon, Stoops has no wiggle room. Not in this year of Franklin Shannon’s sexual assault allegation and Dorial Green-Beckham’s transfer from Missouri. Mixon is off the team.
But if Mashburn opts for a misdemeanor or no charge, then Stoops has options. Everything from dismissal to running stadium steps and anything in between. Because if Mashburn chooses a lesser or no charge, he’s basically agreeing with Mixon lawyer Kevin Finlay that there were extenuating circumstances.
Did the woman call Mixon the magic word? Did she attack him? Did she spit on him? If she’s guilty of two or three of those indiscretions, is Mixon less culpable? The magic word changes the landscape in America, no matter how much you wish it didn’t. Does that make Mixon a little more sympathetic in this no-win story? Ask a dozen people, you’ll get half a dozen different answers.
Most of us are squeamish, at best, over the notion of mercy for a 215-pound tailback who might have punched a 130-pound woman, no matter how intoxicated either of them might have been or what actions led to the assault.
It’s hard to argue with those who declare it’s never OK to hit a woman. But most of us believe in some concept of mercy. Most of us believe that second chances are the hallmark of a civilized society.
So if Stoops is given options, could he send Mixon on the Ryan Broyles route?
Broyles, remember, was not always the charming, affable good citizen who became the NCAA record-holder for pass receptions.
Broyles was often in trouble as a Norman High School student; he was caught stealing gas and was suspended for the 2007 season as an OU freshman. Broyles was told that if he kept his nose clean, he could restart his OU career in 2008. Broyles made the most of the offer.
Stoops could suspend Mixon for the 2014 season and offer the same deal.
Could Stoops take the public-relations hit and keep Mixon on the roster?
Sure. It wouldn’t be particularly pleasant. All kinds of people on and off campus would want to know how stealing gas and busting a coed’s face are anywhere near equal. Stoops would be asked repeatedly why his roster is increasingly populated with players alleged to have been violent with women. It’s quite possible that even if Stoops’ heart leans toward grace, his head could say screw it, it’s not worth it. The program is bigger than any individual.
Or Stoops could decide that Mixon’s OU days are worth salvaging.
Like I keep telling you, coaches believe in their power to impact young lives. It goes beyond Mixon’s reputation as the second coming of Adrian Peterson. Stoops stuck his neck out for Ryan Broyles, who was a difference-maker. Stoops also stuck his neck out for Jaz Reynolds, who was not. Doing the same for Mixon wouldn’t be popular among those of us who think of things beyond touchdowns and bowl games, but popularity and right isn’t necessarily the same thing.
Of course, who knows if Mixon even would want to stay at OU? He could forever be known as the guy who punched the girl.
Transfer to Oregon or Auburn or somewhere, and Mixon would just be some guy with a troubled past. Murky background. In Oklahoma, we’re going to discover every tiny detail of what happened at Pickleman’s the other night. Mixon could be branded with a scarlet letter. He might prefer to bolt and start over somewhere else.
It’s a Solomonic situation for Stoops.
That’s the lot of the head coach.
Any head coach. Decisions like this are not why he’s paid $5 million a year. Stoops is paid $5 million a year to win Bedlam and beat Texas and send OU fans out partying on Poydras after the Sugar Bowl. Coaches in Tahlequah and Rush Springs have to make decisions like this all the time, too, it’s just that few care.
Lots of people care about the Joe Mixon case.
If this was an offensive tackle in trouble, it wouldn’t get this kind of scrutiny. If Mixon was a three-star tailback, instead of a precious five-star, you wouldn’t have everyone on the street chatting about it.
But Mixon has become a legend before his own time, even though we don’t know if he’s the next Adrian Peterson or the next Jermie Calhoun.
And if we ever find out rests in the decisions of Greg Mashburn and Bob Stoops.
Editor’s Note: Comments were originally disabled on this column. We have enabled the comments to be consistent with our treatment in the comments section of previous sports commentary about this continuing story.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.