It sounded nonsensical, if not undeniably self-serving: “The world is a different place two-and-a-half years later.”
Bob Stoops’ phrasing might have sucked, but he was right on Wednesday when he talked to the media gathered to discuss the release of the Joe Mixon tape.
Objectively speaking, what Mixon did when he punched Amelia Molitor isn’t a worse sin now than it was when in July 2014. Not one fact about what happened has changed.
But, finally, we found a limit to David Boren’s fondness for headlines. The Goodellian subtext of Stoops’ comments seemed pretty clear.
It doesn't matter if OU's coach agrees with his boss or not. Stoops got to deliver the message. After all the scrutiny and bad PR that have come the university's way since Mixon got a second chance, OU wishes it had a do-over.
College administrators who agreed with OU's decision at the time likely learned their lesson in the last 30 months as well. It would be a mistake to say that leniency won’t fly anymore in these cases. Memories are short. Yet, it’s fair to assume that institutions like the NFL and major universities do have a better appreciation for how links to violence against women, especially graphic ones, can tarnish their images – and detract from their bottom lines.
The problem is that the world hasn't changed much for players.
They are still, in fact, college kids. They are impulsive. They generally don’t think through the consequences of their actions. They make mistakes - oftentimes really bad ones.
And that’s just the start when we’re talking about college football players. They’re trained in a brutally violent sport that is scrambling their brains. A large number of them only know abject poverty and have been raised in homes that could charitably be characterized as unstable. They lack the preparation to succeed academically. They are prone to behavioral problems. Who knows how many of them are taking performance-enhancing drugs.
It honestly surprises me that more college football players don’t land in big trouble away from the field. (Frankly, I suspect that we just don’t hear about a fair number who do.)
As such, I don’t have much faith that strict measures like zero-tolerance policies will do much to deter violence and other antisocial behavior in college football players, much less high school recruits.
Fundamentally, that’s OK. If players can’t abide by the terms that are set for them, so be it. They won’t be on the field. Playing college football isn’t an inalienable right.
Even so, until fans get tired of winning and schools and coaches get tired of making money, the demand for the services of college football players won’t abate. If the schools’ policies tighten, but behavior doesn’t change, what comes next?
Looking the other way. Cover-ups. Payoffs.
Meanwhile, stricter penalties will likely fuel intimidation of victims and discourage reporting of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Those things are already happening now, of course, but hard line policies would likely turn all of them up a few more notches. We might feel better about how the instances of violence we know about are handled; we also stand to make things even worse for victims if more cases just get swept under the rug.
Based on what little we know of Joe Mixon, he doesn’t cut a sympathetic figure. I wouldn't have felt bad for him had he received a different, harsher punishment from the legal system or OU. I appreciate that backdrop is an odd one against which to make an appeal for leaving a little give.
In the end, I just hope that we don’t let posturing for the sake of optics serve as a stand-in for actually dealing with a problem. At the very least, we should recognize the limits of cracking down and the unintended consequences it creates.