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NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Wednesday that Joe Mixon would be off the team if he had punched a woman now instead of 2 1/2 years ago, when he suspended the star running back for a year in a move that has drawn sharp criticism.
Mixon was suspended after punching Oklahoma student Amelia Molitor in 2014. Mixon returned last year and helped the Sooners reach the College Football Playoff, and he has been a standout again this year for No. 7 Oklahoma.
In reversing course, Stoops said he believed that the then-18-year-old Mixon could redeem himself. He said times have changed, and society now has a no-tolerance policy on domestic violence incidents. He said that's a good thing.
"Two-and-a-half-years later, dismissal is really the only thing that is possible," Stoops said. "A young guy having an opportunity to rehabilitate and to have some kind of discipline and come back from it is really not there anymore. Hopefully that message goes down even to the high school level, that these things are just unacceptable to any degree."
Mixon entered an Alford plea at the time, acknowledging there was likely enough evidence to convict him of misdemeanor assault while still asserting his innocence. He did not serve jail time and was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and undergo counseling.
In video released Tuesday, Mixon sat stone-faced as he, his mother and police officers watched footage of him knocking out Molitor with a punch, breaking her jaw and cheekbone, at a local restaurant.
The video of Mixon telling his side of the story three days after the July 2014 incident was released by Norman police. His mother, members of his legal team, Detective David Freudiger and Sgt. Gary Schmidt were in the room. The department released the video less than a week after Mixon's attorneys released video showing the attack.
Stoops said he was shaken by the video of the punch.
"It was horrible," he said. "I hated it. Disliked it as — I hated it as much as anybody did. Absolutely."
Stoops said the length of time it took for the video of the punch to come out created problems.
"We expected that video to be released within a week or two or three weeks or within that month," he said. "We had no idea it would go this long, and that is out of our hands as well. The timeline of it all has not worked out very well for anybody."
In the video released by police on Tuesday, Mixon said a friend of Molitor's blew smoke in his face unintentionally, and Mixon stood to avoid the smoke. He then said Molitor walked up and intentionally blew smoke in his face. He told teammate Michiah Quick that Molitor was being "hella disrespectful" for blowing the smoke in his face.
According to Mixon, Molitor was rude to several of Mixon's teammates, including tight end Mark Andrews.
Later, Mixon said the male with Molitor called him a racial slur, and Mixon responded with a homosexual slur. Mixon said Molitor dropped her purse and hit him. He then said he lunged at her and said "Watch out." He said she hit him again, hard enough for his face to start ringing, and he slugged her.
"I was shocked because she hit me so hard," he said. "It felt like a dude hit me."
Mixon admitted to police he should have left the situation alone before it escalated, but once the racial slur was used, he lost focus. He said after he punched her, his thought was, "What I got myself into?" and said he thought about how he got himself into a "stupid situation" and started thinking about his future. Video shows him leaving the restaurant quickly after the punch.
Stoops said Mixon has been struggling since video of the punch was released as the Sooners prepared for the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl against Auburn.
"He's been really down, for sure," Stoops said. "He's deeply affected by it. Knew he would be. But his teammates are picking him up, and he's been a great teammate to them, and they're giving it back to him."
Critics have said the university should have dismissed Mixon back in 2014. They have also noted a Tulsa World report that receiver Dede Westbrook, a Heisman Trophy finalist, had family violence incidents before enrolling at Oklahoma. Two more former Oklahoma players, linebacker Frank Shannon and receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, also were accused of violence against women in recent years.
Among those calling for changes is Brenda Tracy, who says she was raped by two Oregon State football players and two other men in 1998 and has publicly shared her story in hopes of effecting change and raising awareness of about the toll of sexual assault. She has met with players at Baylor and Nebraska, among others, and met with Oklahoma players in August.
"I would propose that you fly me out to Oklahoma after the first of the year and we sit down and create some new policies that will prevent future incidents of violent athletes being recruited to Oklahoma football," she said in an e-mail she says was recently sent to Stoops and athletic director Joe Castiglione. "I would propose that Oklahoma become the gold standard in football. That your program would become the example of accountability and best practices for recruitment and discipline of violent athletes."
Tracy said the school had not responded to the e-mail, though Stoops said he had spoken with her a few days earlier.
Stoops said Mixon has matured since the incident.
"It's hard to give up on these young men that I go in their homes and talk to their families and talk about their opportunities to grow at Oklahoma," he said. "For those that find that unacceptable, I apologize to those people But I feel like Joe has moved ahead in a very positive way. And believe he's really grown and matured for it."
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