Sunday, February 18

The Dam Truth: Oklahoma prioritized success over justice for victims of violence


Oklahoma football is one of the top programs in the country, but the school prioritized winning above all else after running back Joe Mixon punched a woman in the face. Mixon was suspended from football for a year, but was still allowed to attend the university. (Creative Commons photo by John Silks via Wikimedia Commons)

Oklahoma football is one of the top programs in the country, but the school prioritized winning above all else after running back Joe Mixon punched a woman in the face. Mixon was suspended from football for a year, but was still allowed to attend the university. (Creative Commons photo by John Silks via Wikimedia Commons)


Coach Jim Harbaugh infamously climbed a tree to get a top football recruit to play for Michigan.

Other schools, like Baylor University, simply sold their souls.

The Bears’ coaches, athletic director and chancellor were found to have fostered a dangerous campus environment when reports of Title IX violations surfaced, alleging them of covering up sexual assault allegations to keep star players eligible on Saturday nights.

Their Big 12 compatriot, the University of Oklahoma, is no better.

Athletic director Joe Castiglione and coach Bob Stoops kept running back Joe Mixon in school – only suspending him from football for a year – in 2014 after he slugged a girl in the face at a sandwich shop.

They watched the security video, which was not released to the public until last December, before deciding on Mixon’s woefully paltry punishment – what was essentially a redshirt year.

Warning: This video is graphic.

Congratulations, Oklahoma.

You’ve become one of those programs.

[Related: Harvard team’s ban a positive move against sexual assault]

Mixon’s punishment was laughable.

He didn’t miss a day of class and used that year to work out with the team before leading them to the College Football Playoff semifinals in 2015.

Amelia Molitor, who had her jaw wired shut after his punch, took the brunt of the suffering.

Mixon is to blame for what happened to her, there’s no doubt about it, but Castiglione and Stoops should feel just as guilty as the running back.

They, like former Baylor coach Art Briles, perpetuated a toxic culture by letting Mixon stay in Norman, Oklahoma when he should have been expelled immediately.

Castiglione and Stoops essentially told Molitor that she wasn’t as important as the running back who would help them win games; he led the Sooners to a 22-4 record before leaving for the 2017 NFL Draft.

Coaches always talk about changing the culture around football and ridding the sport of its ugly image of domestic violence.

[Related: Dismissing misogyny as ‘locker room talk’ perpetuates prejudice]

They’ll talk and change it. But only if it doesn’t involve their program or hurt their chances of winning.

Stoops, Castiglione and OU President David Boren had a chance to make a statement that football wins do matter, but people matter more.

Ohio State’s Urban Meyers made that clear to his players. And so has Washington State’s Mike Leach and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier.

After the video was released, Stoops said he wanted to give the freshman a second chance and the punishment fit the act at the time, before continuing to say that the same situation would not be satisfactory in this day and age.

It shouldn’t have been satisfactory two years ago.

Mixon’s altercation coincidentally coincided with former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice’s incident where he punched his then-fiancee in a elevator and knocked her unconscious.

Rice was let go from the Ravens and never played another down of football.

Sports Illustrated columnist Lindsay Schnell wrote a column that asked Stoops how he would feel if the victim had been his daughter.

The Oklahoma coach was reportedly furious that she had “made it personal.”

But Schnell didn’t make it personal.

Mixon, Stoops and Castiglione did when their actions affected anyone who prioritizes human decency over winning the Capital One Orange Bowl.

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