The Big 12 has a violence against women problem
The Big 12 has a problem.
In just over a month, four women have been subject to violence — one caught on video, three are alleged — by Big 12 football players.
That’s four too many, and something has to be done.
Texas receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrell Meander face felony sexual assault charges for a June 21 incident, the loathsome, inhumane details of which were made public in a recently released arrest affidavit.
On June 28, security cameras caught Texas Tech cornerback Nigel Bethel punching Red Raiders women’s basketball player Amber Battle after she punched him during a pickup game on campus. Additional video showed Battle shoving and antagonizing Bethel, and two weeks after being dismissed, his punishment was dwindled to a suspension of 25 percent of his upcoming season, which matched the severity of Battle’s consequence.
Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year Devonte Fields surrendered to a misdemeanor assault warrant on Thursday amid allegations that he threatened his ex-girlfriend with a gun on July 20, shouted "I should blast you!" and punched her in the head, resulting in a swollen cheek and a cut under her eye.
On Friday, Oklahoma’s hyped freshman running back Joe Mixon faced allegations that he punched a woman at a restaurant near campus. The victim told The Oklahoman that her face had been broken in four places.
That’s four incidents at four different schools in five weeks involving five different players, and six if you count an earlier incident this offseason.
The Big 12 has a serious problem with violence against women.
Oklahoma’s Frank Shannon won’t face charges from a January sexual assault allegation after the victim declined to press charges, but could still face punishment after the university conducted a Title IX sexual misconduct investigation. This month, the university told The Oklahoman "there has not been a final determination of a disciplinary action."
Texas coach Charlie Strong counts "treat women with respect" as one of the five core values of his program. Other coaches around the league haven’t been as explicitly vocal on the issue, but whatever is being done clearly isn’t enough.
Players begin reporting to preseason camp this week, and schools and the conference need to team up to do more. No amount of talking will prevent every future incident, but it may prevent some. If it prevents one, that’s a mission accomplished.
Ham-fisted, alpha-male brutes will be ham-fisted, alpha-male brutes. Poor decisions under the influence of anger, alcohol or both will be made.
Still, it can only help, and if four incidents at four schools in five weeks aren’t enough to spur additional action, what is?
There’s a bushel of truth to the idea that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, even if the dictionary disagrees and the origins of the phrase are muddled.
When I hear about incidents like the ones I mentioned before, my mind often returns to a quote from Mario Benavides, one of Charlie Strong’s former players who I spoke with this spring when I asked about Charlie’s "Five Core Values" that include respecting women.
"The general public thinks it’s obvious. Well, it’s not that obvious to some people," he said. "When you’re young, some guys do need to be reminded of those things."
So remind them. Maybe that’s a guest speaker. Maybe it’s exposure to statistics. Maybe it’s a visit from a woman who suffered abuse or violence from a man talking about its effect for years to come. Maybe it’s a team meeting where players are offered an opportunity to share the experiences of a mom or sister who’d been sexually assaulted, abused or beaten. It hopefully includes educating players on what too often awaits victims for seeking justice: Being branded a liar or much worse by idiot fans with a keyboard who can’t fathom their fall Saturday heroes being anything but innocent choir boys.
It’s definitely educating players on the mental illness and suffering that can spawn from traumatic, violent incidents.
Maybe it’s a simple reminder that every woman is somebody’s daughter, and you ought to treat them the same way you’d want your daughter treated.
Ideally, it’s all of those things.
When I spoke with him last week in Dallas, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby cited a study that stated fans would be less interested in college football if players were paid.
I don’t buy that idea, but you know what will really decline interest in college football? If four players are getting arrested for violence against women every month.
Preventing that violence and protecting women should be motivation No. 1, but if it the threat of a thinner wallet is all that will spur action, I’ll take it.
Players can’t have a 24-hour babysitter. Keeping 100 guys aged 18-23 out of trouble every night year-round isn’t a fair expectation, but further incidents with female victims must be prevented. More has to be done.
Why would you not?