Three years ago, college football instituted an excessive celebration rule. If a player began celebrating before reaching the end zone, his pending touchdown could be wiped out and a 15-yard penalty enforced at the point of the infraction.
So if a player started high-stepping, or raised the ball above his head, or taunted the opponent at the 5-yard line, for example, the play would be whistled dead where the violation occurred and his team’s next play would commence at the 20-yard line.
Given the ordeal with incoming Oklahoma freshman running back Joe Mixon, exactly when is it safe for players, coaches, employees and fans of a college football program to celebrate landing their latest prize recruit?
The day a recruit signs a binding letter of intent seems like the appropriate time to commence celebrating, but that’s actually when all the work begins.
The student-athlete must graduate the institution from whence he came and meet all entrance requirements at his new college. There's also the move to campus; becoming acclimated to a new environment away from home; adjusting to new teammates, coaches, teachers and advisors. If a high school football player graduates one semester early, he can enroll in college for the following semester and participate in spring practice.
This is all pretty heady stuff, a lot of moving parts for 17- and 18-year-olds. Plenty has to go right for a freshman just to reach his first game. And if the timing’s not quite right, a redshirt season might be in store, which equates to a year’s delay.
As a member of the OU football team, Mixon has yet to make it to his first practice and barely made it to his 18th birthday.
Early last Friday morning, less than three hours after turning 18, Mixon allegedly was involved in an altercation with 20-year-old fellow student Amelia Rae Molitor at Picklemen’s Gourmet Cafe on Campus Corner.
Norman Police continue to investigate the assault and on Monday afternoon issued a news release confirming Mixon is an “involved party” in the investigation. “The facts of the incident as reported to police describe an altercation … that turned physical and concluded with Molitor sustaining injuries to her face,” the release stated.
According to the release, Mixon was not present when police arrived on the scene and there is video evidence of the incident. Charges have yet to be filed.
Sources told SoonerScoop no one outside the Norman Police Department had access to the video and that Mixon attorney, Kevin Finlay, and the University of Oklahoma have made requests for copies.
Finlay released a statement late Monday afternoon: “This past Friday morning Joe Mixon found himself in a situation where he was subjected to both verbal and physical attacks from a very intoxicated and troubled young woman. As a result of these physical attacks, Joe instinctually defended himself against further harm. As promised, Joe met with investigators from the Norman Police Department this afternoon. Throughout the meeting, Joe continued to be forthcoming and cooperative with their investigation. We are looking forward to a thorough investigation and are very much looking forward to the truth coming out. As we have always maintained, Joe has done nothing wrong."
In a Friday interview with The Oklahoman, Molitor said Mixon “broke my face in four places” and added she hopes he “goes to prison for years.”
Molitor faces some legal troubles herself.
Court records obtained by SoonerScoop show a misdemeanor bench warrant was issued for the arrest of Molitor. The warrant was issued the day before the incident and Molitor was not arrested at the scene. “Misdemeanor warrants are not entered into the National Crime Information Center database,” Cleveland County Sheriff's department public information officer Meghan McCormick told SoonerScoop. “That could be the reason why she was not arrested at the scene. The bench warrant was issued for misdemeanor possession of (a) controlled substance and possession of paraphernalia. The warrant was issued July 24, 2014. She could be arrested at a later time.”
A five-star prospect from Freedom High School in Oakley, Calif., Mixon was ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 1 all-purpose back in the 2014 recruiting class.
Mixon reportedly struggled from the moment he stepped on the OU campus last month and tweeted he was bored, lonely and homesick.
It's also too soon to celebrate that charges have yet to be filed against Mixon. Extensive interviews remain in the investigation. When the incident is finally resolved, Mixon’s career at OU could be over before it ever started.