Arizona Football

In stark contrast to Oklahoma’s handling of Mixon, Rodriguez sacrificed wins for values in Bradford case


What is the head football coach and a school’s administration to do when a player strikes a woman?

Shouldn’t that have a definitive answer?

Winning games prolongs careers, fills seats and adds to the bottom line.

At places like Oklahoma, which puts victories above everything else to uphold its image as a college football power, the coaches and administration forsake values for victories. That’s obvious and no argument can be made against that with their handling of the Joe Mixon case.

Rich Rodriguez has a strict policy when it comes to domestic violence that involves his players (KVOA video screen shot)

Mixon broke bones in a woman’s face when he punched her and she fell hitting her face on a table at Norman restaurant on July 25, 2014. The surveillance video — released last week — shows the woman, Amelia Molitor, argued with Mixon and first pushed and slapped him across the face.

After Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and the Sooners’ administration viewed the video, they suspended Mixon — the No. 1-rated high school running back in the country — only for the 2014 season. In essence, Mixon was allowed to redshirt as a freshman, a common practice in college athletics. His four years of eligibility remained.

Mixon played in the 2015 season, a key part in Oklahoma reaching the College Football Playoffs. He rushed for 749 yards on 110 carries averaging 6.8 yards. He also caught 25 receptions for 345 yards. He scored 11 times. This season, he rushed for 1,183 yards on 168 carries (7.0 yards per carry) and caught 32 passes for 449 yards. He scored 13 touchdowns.

Oklahoma is 10-2 and bound for the Sugar Bowl.

What is the head football coach and a school’s administration to do when a player strikes a woman? Shouldn’t that have a definitive answer?

“We have a rule,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said in a Sept. 19 press conference. “You put your hands on a woman, you are done. That’s it. There ain’t no ‘sit down and talk.” If you did it, if you put your hands on a woman in any shape way or form, you are done. Next …”

Rodriguez was asked what process he and Arizona’s administration would take to discipline sophomore running back Orlando Bradford, who was arrested five days before that press conference on 11 felonies of domestic violence. Bradford was swiftly kicked off the team by Rodriguez after he admitted that he hit a woman.

KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

What Rodriguez did not know at the time is that Arizona’s running game, or lack thereof, would be a significant reason why his team would finish 3-9 overall and 1-8 in the Pac-12.

Returning starter Nick Wilson did not play the last five games of the season because of a high ankle sprain.

True freshman J.J. Taylor appeared talented enough to make up for the loss of Wilson — who was hobbled throughout most of the season — but he was lost for the season after breaking his ankle in the fourth game of the season against Washington.

Rodriguez’s only other option at running back was Zach Green, who is more of a third-down back used to gain short yardage when necessary.

Rodriguez first resorted to using 5’7″ and 164-pound receiver Tyrell Johnson at running back. He eventually turned to another receiver Samajie Grant, and the 5’9″ and 173-pound player finished with a respectable 461 yards rushing.

But Grant had no business being a running back. He was needed as a playmaking receiver. He gained 176 of his rushing yards in the last game against an anemic Arizona State defense.

Oh, how Arizona could have used Bradford. Surely, Rodriguez could have allowed the process to take place in court and give Bradford the benefit of the doubt for at least this season, right?

Wrong.

But imagine if Rodriguez used Bradford’s skills to make up for the loss of Wilson and Taylor and assisted Brandon Dawkins, Anu Solomon and Khalil Tate to be more useful passing quarterbacks than guys who were forced to run to keep defenses honest.

Wrong.

Longtime Tucson attorney Rick Gonzales took to this matter on Facebook this week and offered a strong opinion for how Rodriguez handled the Bradford situation as opposed to how Stoops and Oklahoma allowed Mixon to continue to be part of the Sooners’ operation.

Tucson attorney Rick Gonzales, the head of the Southern Arizona Chapter of the National Football Foundation, pictured with Arizona football legend and College Football Hall of Fame member Chuck Cecil (Gonzales photo)

Gonzales communicated to me that the way Rodriguez handled the Bradford case falls in line with “the kind of integrity and toughness that he learned from his dad.” Rodriguez’s dad, Vince, died this week at the age of 77. Rodriguez called him the “hardest working, toughest man I know.”

“When I compare the Sugar Bowl-bound Oklahoma Sooners with the 3 win, 9 loss Arizona Wildcats, I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of Coach Rich Rod and AD Greg Byrne,” Gonzales writes. “When the Wildcats lost their star running back to injuries, and the star in waiting, Orlando Bradford, was accused of punching a woman, Coach Rich Rod asked only one question – Did you hit a woman? Yes or No? He didn’t ask for video proof or wait for a police report.

“He asked his 4-star player one simple question. When the answer came back yes, Bradford’s career as a Wildcat came to an immediate and unequivocal end. And for all intents and purposes, as we now know, the Wildcats season also began to crumble because Rich Rod valued the integrity of his program and the University of Arizona above W’s and L’s or the efficiency of his vaunted offense.”

What is the head football coach and a school’s administration to do when a player strikes a woman? Shouldn’t that have a definitive answer?

“How different might this season have turned out if Rich Rod had waffled and allowed Bradford to remain on the team and on the field while we got to the bottom of this or allowed the legal system to play out?” Gonzales continues. “Consider how the season may have gone with Bradford and JJ Taylor both picking up the slack for the injured Wilson. Arizona would probably be on it’s way to a bowl game and Rich Rod’s job and coaching acumen would not be in question.

“But instead he chose principle and integrity. To me, that is a true coach of men. Personally, and as the father of two daughters and numerous accomplished nieces and grand nieces, I am proud to be an Arizona Wildcat alum as we enter the 2016 bowl season.”

There’s your definitive answer.

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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.


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