Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield will not start on Saturday after making an inappropriate gesture toward the Kansas sideline in a 41-3 win. While the move is well-intentioned, it is unnecessary.
In the grand scheme of college football, what Mayfield did was completely harmless. In fact, it was less than harmless. Perhaps it wasn’t the best look and maybe was a little inappropriate, but it was nothing.
Just compare Mayfield’s punishment to some of the other players who have been suspended in college football over the last few years.
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was suspended for one game after failing a breathalyzer test in 2015, which flew in the face of a mandatory two-week suspension rule. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall was suspended one half after a marijuana possession citation.
Just this week, Arkansas quarterback Cole Kelley was reinstated after a one-game suspension following an arrest for suspicion of driving while intoxicated and careless driving.
Several of these players could have caused bodily harm to other people. One game was deemed appropriate by other coaches. Kansas provoked Mayfield by refusing to shake his hand pregame and by landing a late hit.
For grabbing his crotch and saying some inappropriate words — that likely were said on every football field in America on Saturday — Baker Mayfield will not be allowed to start and have a captain’s “C” on his jersey in his final game at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
More than anything, it’s disappointing that Oklahoma feels the need to come down on him right before Senior Day. That means Mayfield has made his last start at Oklahoma already. It puts a damper on one of the greatest college careers of all time.
Granted, Oklahoma might have felt pressured to appear strong. Many were critical of the program for being too lenient on Joe Mixon. He assaulted a woman as a freshman and was allowed back on the team after a redshirt season. This was an opportunity for Lincoln Riley to take perceived control of the program and take back the narrative.
Mayfield also had a couple minor incidents that might have contributed. He jawed with fans at Baylor and TCU. Mayfield has been on a short leash after a public intoxication arrest before the season. Even Heisman winner Jameis Winston was suspended for a game in 2014 after an outburst in the Florida State student union. The incident itself was minor, but the bumps add up.
And all things considered, this punishment doesn’t matter. The Sooners will crush a West Virginia team playing without starting quarterback Will Grier. Mayfield will come in, throw for his customary 300 yards and get a standing ovation. Then Oklahoma can win the Big 12 Championship, make the College Football Playoff and win a national title.
However, this will be an unnecessary and unfortunate footnote to what is sure to be a College Football Hall of Fame career. It was a college kid getting to be a college kid — nothing more.