This week is the annual “It’s on US Week of Action”, which aims to raise awareness of the issue sexual assaults on college campuses while asking all of us to step up and make a personal commitment to stopping these assaults. It’s a campaign that the NCAA and its member schools have pledged to partner with, but it’s time to make this partnership more than just PSA’s and dialogue. It’s time for the schools to take actions which show they are committed to eliminating sexual assaults, even if it costs them some victories.
It’s not a coincidence that I chose a photo of Bob Bowlsby to accompany this article. Last month the Big 12 sponsored a forum where Bowlsby said, “We have to weed out the perpetrators and we have to hold them accountable, and that doesn’t just mean packing their bags and moving to another institution. If conferences or the NCAA can have a role in that, I’m all ears to listen.” The last time I checked, Bob Bowlsby is the Big 12 Commissioner. He made $2.3 million in 2014 and he’s just going to listen for a way to get involved, so let me offer this suggestion- do something Commissioner Bowlsby.
Why do I pick on Bowlsby? Two schools from his league- the Baylor Bears and Oklahoma Sooners.
The continued mess at Baylor has been an embarrassment. We have football coaches telling Brenda Tracy, a victim of sexual assault, that the program was being treated unfairly by the University. This is a school where the interim coach wants to make sure everyone knows he was forced to kick off a player who was the subject of a Title IX investigation. The place where the former school president believes Art Briles was “a scapegoat and victim”. Despite all of this, Baylor sits at 5-0 and since they are the Big 12’s only hope of getting a team in the College Football Playoff, Bowlsby’s not going to push for any kind of punishment for them unless the NCAA dictates it.
That’s consistent of course for Bowlsby as he’s shown to be more interested in “listening” than acting in his tenure. It’s easy to talk about not accepting transfer students with previous assault charges, but when you fail to respond when schools in your conference ignore the same type of incidents, it’s difficult to think your words carry any kind of weight.
Two years ago another of Bowlsby’s schools treated an assault on a woman like they would a torn ACL. Joe Mixon shattered the jaw of a female student during the summer before his freshman year and the response by Oklahoma was to mandate a redshirt season. Of course administrators were quick to point out that Mixon wasn’t allowed to participate in team activities, because the Sooners “....are committed to winning the right way”. Mixon kept his scholarship and remained in school so that he could continue to take classes and remain eligible. The Big 12 did nothing and after his redshirt year, Mixon was back on the field last year helping to lead the Sooners to the College Football Playoff.
The same summer of Mixon’s incident, OU accepted Dorian Green-Beckham after he was dismissed from Missouri for an alleged assault. The Sooners administration pushed for a waiver to make Green-Beckham eligible immediately, but the request was denied. Again, “...committed to winning the right way” can mean so many things as long as winning is the priority.
Now the Big 12 isn’t alone in talking a good game without backing it up. The SEC has amended their transfer conduct policy as a way of preventing schools from accepting athletes with previous incidents of “serious misconduct”. Of course the conference doesn’t want to intervene in other situations. I find it interesting that the SEC started using the motto “It Just Means More” this season. At a couple of the member schools, that motto can certainly apply to footballl meaning more than anything else.
The Tennessee Volunteers have been hailed for their perseverance this season, rallying to win games that seemed lost. Their head coach Butch Jones was praised for saving his job and returning the Vols to prominence well I say Butch Jones should be fired. He should be fired because his program turned a blind eye to sexual assaults, because one of his staff members allegedly watched players attack another player for defending a woman who was assaulted, and Jones himself allegedly told that player he “betrayed the team”.....but hey they completed that Hail Mary, so yeah for Butch.
Not to be outdone, the Mississippi State Bulldogs decided this summer to make Oklahoma’s Mixon treatment look like harsh by comparison with how they reacted to the Jeffrey Simmons incident. The 5-star defensive player was captured on video punching a woman while she was on the ground and Miss State decided that making him sit out the opener against South Alabama was punishment enough. The SEC didn’t get involved because they only want to keep transfers with serious misconduct out of their conference, and clearly Florida was so impressed by the way AD Scott Stricklin handled this situation that they made him their new AD....although the Gators seem pretty comfortable with their own ways to handle Title IX investigations.
Where do we go from here? Well, for starters, let’s keep the NCAA Investigations group far away from this issue. They can’t handle the cases they have now, so we don’t need them taking over this process. I’m glad Mark Emmert feels the NCAA needs to do something about the issue of sexual assault, but the best thing he can do is push for the action to come from another level.
Let’s have people like Bob Bowlsby stop listening and talking, and start acting. We don’t have to stand on the sidelines and claim we can’t tell schools what they can or can’t do when you pump your chest about instituting transfer guidelines. If you can pass rules which prohibit schools from taking transfers, why can’t you pass rules to provide punishments for current athletes in similar situations?
Let’s have college administrators make the decision that athletics does not rule the school, and let’s start treating athletes as we would any student in these situations. “It’s on US” as fans to demand that the schools we root for each weekend start making us proud in ways that aren’t measured on the scoreboard.