A few weeks ago, Oklahoma football quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Baker Mayfield was arrested early on a Saturday morning for public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. Mayfield has since posted a lengthy apology addressed to his family, friends, administration, coaches and especially the fans.
— Baker Mayfield (@baker_mayfield6) February 28, 2017
In the apology, Mayfield stresses his regret and states that he understands the multitude of his mistakes while accepting responsibility. The quarterback is the captain of the Oklahoma team that was already in the midst of recovering from off-field issues involving former running back Joseph Mixon.
Mayfield is returning to an Oklahoma team that ended last season on a very high note including a Sugar Bowl victory and the number 5 ranking in the final coach’s poll. While the Sooners have lost some key offensive pieces to this year’s NFL draft, Mayfield’s return coupled with a top-10 recruiting class has the Sooners looking to be in championship contention once again. However, a gigantic stumble by Mayfield could have some serious implications for a future suspension, stripping of his title as captain, and loss of teammates trust.
The ball is essentially in Bob Stoops’ hand assuming the administration doesn’t step in and overrule whatever he chooses. Keep in mind that after Joe Mixon was arrested for assaulting a woman a few years ago, Stoops suspended him for the entire 2014 season.
As a fellow division 1 student-athlete and captain of my team, I see Mayfield’s incident from a different perspective than most. And while my experience as a student-athlete playing the smaller-market sport of lacrosse is very different than Mayfield’s, there are still many relatable aspects that I’ll touch on regarding this situation.
I know what you’re probably expecting – I’m going to fly to Baker’s defense and say it was a harmless incident where a college kid had one too many drinks and then made a silly mistake. That’s not necessarily the case; there needs to be accountability, but at the same time he is a college kid and nobody was hurt. An interesting dynamic that many programs face at one point or another.
While I’m also over 21 years old, I understand how a normal night out can quickly turn into a volatile situation. The reports say Mayfield was originally trying to break up a fight but when the police tried to question him, he was visibly intoxicated, slurred his words and eventually resisted arrest.
All of the charges make for a rather unattractive sight for anyone to picture. As a captain and leader of his team, Mayfield’s responsibility for his teammates doesn’t end when they step off the field. While the team spends countless hours on the field and in the weight room, they spend even more time off the field. That’s when being a leader is the most challenging but also the most important.
Besides bearing the responsibility of every member of the team, Mayfield is the current face of the Oklahoma football program, which in turn makes him the face of the university in many people’s eyes. Every word he says along with the way he carries himself is analyzed then criticized. It must get tiring, but it’s a privilege that very few people every get the honor of having.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with going out and having a few drinks, especially during the offseason. In fact, being able to go out and socialize after a week of long practices and conditioning sessions can become crucial to keeping the right balance as a college athlete. Especially for someone with as much on their plate as Mayfield.
However, Mayfield’s first mistake was drinking to the point that he became vulnerable. Everyone knows who Baker and most of the football players are; it would be silly to assume that there aren’t people out to get them. In a society where being a tough guy and starting fights seems to be more common than not, a leader and face of a team needs to always be on their toes, able to handle any type of situation.
From what the report said, it seemed like Mayfield was trying to break up an altercation when he was questioned by police. However, being that he was visibly intoxicated, he ended up finding himself getting arrested while screaming profanities and resisting arrest.
Would Mayfield act this way if you eliminate alcohol from the equation? Of course not, and as I mentioned there’s nothing wrong with going out and having a few beers. But Mayfield lost control, even if just momentarily. He allowed himself to be a liability because he figured it was just another night out. His mistake was putting his responsibility as a leader and public figure to the side in exchange for one too many drinks.
Its tough for me to completely condemn Mayfield. Life is stressful as it is committing the hours and energy to a collegiate sport. Adding everything else that comes along with being Oklahoma’s quarterback and you can see why Mayfield was seemingly just trying to enjoy himself. But that’s the entire issue: Even if it was this one time, one time is all it takes.
When you consider the issue in the context of incidents among college athletes, it doesn’t seem like the end of the world. Nobody was hurt or attacked, it was just someone acting dumb. But the fact remains, Mayfield is held to a higher standard, he can’t be involved with any negative issues, period.
So what type of punishment does this merit? Suspending him for Oklahoma’s first game seems pointless as the team plays Texas El Paso which will be a victory regardless if Mayfield plays. And suspending him for more than one game may seem harsh when you consider the nature of the issue.
Does Mayfield deserve to be demoted as a captain? That seems more reasonable, and in my opinion, it’s the punishment that hurts the most. Being told that after all you aren’t fit to lead a team because you made one mistake out is a tough pill to swallow. Do the players in the program see Mayfield as unfit to lead them after having one too many drinks? I don’t think so, but this issue becomes larger than just the locker room, it involves the entire University of Oklahoma and their fan base.
If Coach Bob Stoops were to let Mayfield keep his captain status or just suspend him for a game he would receive a multitude attacks for the lack of accountability. But suspending him for more than one game seems to be over the top while it would turn an issue that happened in February a major reason for losing in September.
Ultimately, I think Stoops will strip Baker Mayfield of his captainship. It will be far from easy to pull that trigger, but with privilege comes accountability. While I also understand that it was a minor mistake that has major implications, when you’re in Mayfield’s position everything is amplified. Regardless of what decision is made, the way Mayfield responds is CRUCIAL for his team and eventual draft stock. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mayfield is able to learn from his actions and become a better leader and person, making the Oklahoma Sooners a scary team come the start of the 2017 season.