Oklahoma State Loses a Star Player, but Wins in Acting Swiftly

On Dec. 6, Oklahoma State’s Tyreek Hill was the hero of Cowboy Nation after returning a questionable rekick of a punt 92 yards for a game-tying score with under a minute remaining in the game. That singular event fueled bedlam all over the Sooner State and set up an improbable overtime win by OSU over hated in-state rival and nationally ranked Oklahoma.

The win by Oklahoma State in the annual Bedlam battle with its in-state rival easily was the highlight of a most disappointing season for head coach Mike Gundy’s Cowboy’s.

In the regular-season finale, OSU managed to break a five-game losing streak and earn an all-important sixth win that had been elusive since the Cowboys started out the season winning five straight games following a season-opening loss to defending national champion Florida State.

Nov 15, 2014; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys running back Tyreek Hill (24) runs with the ball past Texas Longhorns linebacker Jordan Hicks (3) during the second half at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

By reaching the six-win level, Oklahoma State became bowl eligible (for a ninth consecutive year). Within 24 hours after the win over the Sooners, the Cowboys accepted an invitation to play Washington in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl on Jan. 2 in Tempe, Ariz. Suddenly, a season of gloom and apparent doom had turned into one of excitement and renewed enthusiasm.

As if it all was too good to be true, five days after all the hoopla from the Bedlam win and the subsequent bowl invitation, the storm clouds rolled into Stillwater and dropped an unexpected bombshell on the Cowboys’ football program. The player that had been the star for Oklahoma State in Bedlam was arrested on a domestic abuse charge.

Hill was accused of injuring his pregnant girlfriend and charged with domestic abuse by strangulation, according to news reports in the Oklahoma City Oklahoman.

The morning following the arrest, Gundy gathered all the information he could get from local law enforcement officials. That night, Hill was suspended indefinitely from the team.

It was an understandably difficult decision for Gundy, but one that had to be made, and the Oklahoma State coach deserves both respect and praise  for taking the necessary action and doing it expeditiously.

With the proliferation of reports of domestic abuse that is seemingly everywhere you go these days and has been heightened by all the stories focusing on NFL star Ray Rice, it is clear that such inappropriate and unlawful actions will not be tolerated – not just by professional and amateur athletes, celebrities and public figures in the limelight but by anyone in today’s society – and will be dealt with swiftly and subject to serious consequences.

Oct 4, 2014; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys wide receiver Tyreek Hill (24) runs with the ball during the first half against the Iowa State Cyclones at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

“We try to stress as much as we can to these guys there’s just certain things right now that society frowns upon,” Gundy said in an interview with the Oklahoman and other local news sources.

“We tell these guys if there’s any kind of conflict, you have to run, run far away…and stay away,” the Oklahoma State head coach added.

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops was faced with a similar situation before the season started, when he indefinitely suspended prized freshman running back Joe Mixon because of charges stemming from hitting and assaulting a female student.

Incidents of domestic violence involving college football players are not a new phenomenon. We would be foolish to think otherwise. After all, we are talking about young men 18, 19 20-plus years of age who play football, a violent sport by nature.

When you factor this with the high-pressure, win-at-all-cost environment that head coaches in major college programs live in, it is easy to deduce that a number of such incidents in the past might have been ignored or strung out interminably, with little or no action taken other than perhaps a stern scolding.

Scary thought, huh? But probably more reality than not.

Thank goodness that’s not the world we live in today. College student-athletes should not be held to a different standard than anyone else in our society when it comes to obeying laws and the rules of order and discipline that are imposed on all of us.

It is actually a positive turn of events that inappropriate actions and  physical abuse such as that displayed by Oklahoma State’s Hill are coming to light much faster than ever before, and they are being investigated and addressed with appropriate urgency.

What the Hill incident tells us is that student-athletes may be hearing the message that Gundy, Stoops and others are repeatedly sending their players, but some of them are not really listening. The fact is, that in the heat of the moment, in a potentially explosive situation, a 20-year-old young man cannot always be expected to stop and think before making the right or wrong choice in response to a contentious situation.

In the case of Hill, and others like him, the pain inflicted by the accused doesn’t stop with the victim. it also afflicts his teammates and those close to him.

It is a different kind of pain, for sure, but his OSU teammates are also victimized and tarnished by Hill’s actions. Not only must they deal with the emotional uneasiness and the distractions of the situation in their preparations for the upcoming bowl game, but they are now forced to go into the game without the services of a key player and a major scoring threat every time he touches the ball.

Hill’s future at Oklahoma State is very much up in the air at this time. One thing is certain, however, there are no winners in circumstances such as this, only victims and innocent others left to deal with destruction and despair left in its wake.