There was Tyreek Hill too, the speedster who Cowboy Radio Network play-by-play voice Dave Hunziker had dubbed the "Cheetah." Hill had come in last spring from Garden City Community College and quickly won a Big 12 Championship in track with his 200-meter indoor crown helping the OSU track team to their first indoor Big 12 Championship.
Hill wasn't totally acclimated to being a Division I running back or slot receiver. That was developing but kick the football to him and let him run and his chances of success were pretty decent. Oklahoma did an extra time in Bedlam and Hill made the Sooners pay and made Cowboys worldwide scream for joy.
After a rough season that was somewhat expected in the summer but still a bitter pill to swallow in the fall, Hill's timely punt return and the Cowboys absolute domination in overtime against Oklahoma was the perfect regular season conclusion to surge optimism and some satisfaction through the program and the fan base.
Then Friday morning the developments of Thursday night became public.
The girlfriend and the woman claiming to be carrying Tyreek Hill's child had driven herself to Stillwater Medical Center and the emergency room. While being treated for multiple injuries and showing concern for her pregnancy, police were called in.
The woman's injuries, bruises and cuts to her face and neck along with her wincing from head and stomach pains, demanded that authorities be called and a statement be made. The statement from the woman was that Tyreek Hill did this to her. She told officers a story that takes Hill out of the spotlight of Bedlam hero status and into the ugly focus that has been trained on domestic violence in our country. She told the story of being abused before but never as bad as Thursday night.
I don't know about you, but my entire childhood I was taught not to hit a woman. I was taught never to touch a woman in an aggressive manner. Women were to be respected and, if anything, treated with the utmost care. My father and my uncle, all the men in my life, were all universal and consistent in believing and teaching that theme.
It was demonstrated again by my father this year as he threatened his own existence and weakened himself in how diligent and completely he cared for my mother in her final months. He is still recovering from that.
I've known Mike Gundy a long time, and I know the Gundy family and I know how women are respected and treated. From his mother, Judy Gundy, to his wife Kristen, women are not to be touched in anyway other than with respect.
I know that ideal is part of the Cowboys football program and part of how players are educated in more than Xs and Os but in how to be the "Classy Cowboy." Gundy talks of the role that he and his staff have in helping to shape the players in the program off the field to be good husbands, good fathers, and productive members of society.
All of that taken into account, the decision that Gundy's name and his role as head coach was attached to early Friday evening of dismissing Tyreek Hill from the Oklahoma State football program was not Gundy's alone. This decision went past the West End Zone and right across campus to Whitehurst and President Burns Hargis, and likely consulting with the Board of Regents.
I had a friend blow up my phone on Friday shortly after the decision became public knowledge that Hill was dismissed from the team. You know when you can tell someone is upset through electronic communication. The responses are flying almost faster than they can type. The text messages come in bunches, all from the same source. He was demanding the rights of the accused. Maybe you could suspend him from the team but dismissal? No, Hill deserved his day in court before a decision that extreme and complete could be passed out. He was on fire!
I have to admit, I couldn't handle it all. I took the evening off. I slept on it. My job is to write and communicate with Oklahoma State Cowboys fans. Something that time to time makes that hard to do in such a timely fashion is that I am one of you. I'm a Cowboy. I grew up one, went to school as one, met my wife as one, watched my son and daughter graduate as a Cowboy and a Cowgirl. I had to take time.
However, I know this. There is the Cowboy code, the one from the old west and Cowboys were always taught to treat women with respect. There is another code. The code of conduct on the Oklahoma State University campus and it is clear and it comes straight from the school's Code of Conduct manual:
17. Physical Violence: Physical violence of any nature against any person, on or off campus. This includes fighting; assault; battery; the use of a knife, gun, or other weapon; physical abuse; restraining or transporting someone against his/her will; suicidal or self-harming behavior; or any action that threatens or endangers the physical health or safety of any person or causes reasonable apprehension of such harm. The University will strongly recommend suspension or expulsion for students found responsible for this charge when harm or injury occurs.
Finally, football is not a right but it is a privilege. I was taught that by my high school football coach and I believe it so to be true that I taught it to the kids that I coached. In grade school if you don't do your homework, then your parents and your coach can take football away. If you don't do what you are supposed to in high school then parents, coaches, principal, or superintendent can take away the privilege of playing. In college, the school or the NCAA or governing body has control. In the NFL, the team and the league can take it away. At the same time not everybody can play. Football is not a democracy and you can't just come out and say I want to play. You have to be talented enough and/or you have to earn it.
I struggled with addressing that on Friday evening, but I'm rock solid now. Tyreek Hill will get his day in court, but his privilege of being a Cowboy football player has been taken away. It's sad, but there was too much evidence that put that in question Thursday night in that emergency room.