Bob Stoops' judgment no longer can be trusted after release of Joe Mixon video
For two years we’ve known exactly what Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon did to Amelia Molitor in a Norman, Okla., sandwich shop.
After she pushed him and slapped him across the face, he punched her with a devastating cross to her left jaw, breaking four facial bones and leaving her motionless and in a pool of blood on the tile floor as he walked out of the restaurant.
On Friday, the public saw the surveillance footage of the incident for the first time. The scene was graphic and gut-wrenching to any person with a conscience or sense of decency. Yes, Mixon was pushed and slapped by Molitor, but his punishment, delivered upon Molitor’s face in a flash of rage, did not fit the crime.
When you see the video, it becomes difficult to understand how the punishment handed out by Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, OU athletic director Joe Castiglione, and school president David Boren — a one-year suspension for the then 18-year-old, five-star freshman running back — fit Mixon's crime.
Because it’s one thing to know what happened in Pickleman’s on July 15, 2014, and it’s another thing to see it happen.
To only be told how the event unfolded is to leave it to the imagination, and one’s imagination is full of biases. The mind’s eye doesn’t see with 20-20 vision — there’s cloudiness and ambiguity, and while no one disputes the story, everyone, upon hearing or reading it, saw it differently.
Perhaps this is what Stoops and the Oklahoma brass wanted.
Take our word for it — it was bad, but it wasn’t as bad as you might imagine.
But what else could the public believe when Mixon kept his scholarship, took a redshirt, and then ran the ball 282 times over the next two years as a major part of the Sooners’ back-to-back Big 12 champion teams?
So long as the incident remained ambiguous, Stoops and Co.’s punishment remained justifiable — there was plausible deniability, because you didn’t know exactly what went down.
You were just going to have to trust Bob.
But now that the video is out, Stoops, Castiglione, and Boren no longer have that plausible deniability — they saw the video a month-and-a-half after the incident as part of a roughly 40-person gallery at the Norman Police Investigations Center, and instead of booting him from the team, they decided that Mixon taking a redshirt year and remaining on scholarship was sufficient punishment.
In doing so, Oklahoma showed the true values of the school and its football program.
Also in that viewing gallery were members of the media, who did an excellent job in telling the story of exactly what happened that night, sparing no space to emphasize every detail of the incident.
Thousands of words were written, but we were reminded Friday that a three-minute long surveillance tape is worth far more than the thousand words you can get for a single picture. You can do the math.
Many might now believe that Mixon got off easy in light of the surveillance tape’s release, but the scrutiny should be directed not at the 18-year-old who has done his proverbial time, both in the eyes of the law and the Oklahoma football program, but rather Stoops and the OU administration.
Stoops might play dumb on a lot of things when it comes to his football program, but he can’t distance himself from this decision.
Outside of the Mixon incident in the year 2014, Stoops:
• Saw starting linebacker Frank Shannon be suspended by OU after the school investigated a sexual assault claim against him. Shannon returned to the Sooners’ football team for the 2015 season.
• Accepted Dorial Green-Beckham into the Sooners’ program after the talented wide receiver was kicked out of Missouri after it was alleged he forced his way into an apartment and pushed a woman down a staircase. The decision to take in DGB earned Stoops a rebuke from a United States Senator.
• Signed Dede Westbrook. Stoops has recently claimed to have no idea about the Heisman Trophy finalist’s alleged two domestic violence incidents, which are said to have occurred before Westbrook transferred to Oklahoma. Stoops said, "We have extensive background checks. ... I’m not part of that. Again, so I'm not sure how that happened.”
Again, that was just 2014, and that was just with players.
It's not even taking into account that three of Stoops’ former assistant coaches, who landed head coaching jobs after working for the Sooners, were fired from those head coaching positions for mistreating players.
When you start adding context, Stoops’ Mixon punishment starts to make some sense.
But here’s a bigger question — when you take everything into account, why would anyone trust Stoops again?
No one could be so naive to think that had Mixon not been a five-star recruit — had he been a three-star prospect at the bottom of the Signing Day press release and not a major recruiting coup for OU — Stoops wouldn’t have cut ties with the running back following the incident all together.
Just like he wouldn’t have taken in Green-Beckham, who was arguably the best wide receiver in the nation, or allowed Shannon to return to the team (though there are massive legal issues involved in that scenario), or even signed Westbrook — but they were all top-flight talents, so they all got the benefit of the doubt from Stoops.
Hopefully, Stoops never gets that same courtesy from the media, fans, or OU administration again.
That’s because it seems that as far as Stoops is concerned, winning comes first and decency comes second – and it sure seems like oftentimes with the Sooners, these two ideals oppose each other.
Or perhaps Oklahoma is just a high-profile example of the way things work in college football now.
Either way, it’s unfair to the vast majority of the players on Oklahoma teams, both past and present, that because Stoops opted to be lenient in punishing Mixon for his transgression, their reputations are now at least partially tainted by proxy.
It’s unfair to Molitor, who had to see her former school celebrate, in full throat, the man who broke her face a little more than a year after the incident, a half-mile away from where it happened.
And it’s even unfair to Mixon, whose case is now being re-litigated by the vicious court of public opinion because Stoops wanted to keep his prized recruit in the program. It’s hard to make the most of a second chance — deserved or not — when your first chance isn’t a closed chapter.
No one comes out of this unscathed, but if history is any indicator of what happens next, it’ll be Stoops who ends up least affected by it all.