Blair Kerkhoff

College football’s next goal: Stop hitting women

Quarterback De’Andre Johnson was dismissed from the Florida State football team earlier this month after a video showed him punching a woman at a bar.
Quarterback De’Andre Johnson was dismissed from the Florida State football team earlier this month after a video showed him punching a woman at a bar. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Florida State suspended one player for punching a 21-year-old woman in the face. Another Seminoles player has been charged with misdemeanor battery for allegedly punching a woman several times. That second player, running back Dalvin Cook, turned himself in to authorities, and his attorney said he didn’t hit the woman.

Florida State and the legal system are dealing with the issues, just as Oklahoma did a year earlier when its top recruit, running back Joe Mixon, punched a woman and was dismissed from the team.

But that’s not enough. Condemnation is required here, and not just from anti-violence groups or media representatives.

This must become unacceptable behavior in the college football fraternity. Coaches who preach work ethic and character and players who talk about respecting opponents would be the strongest voices and agents of change.

The timing is such that the first opportunity to react to the recent Florida State news has presented itself, and the Southeastern Conference is receiving passing grades.

Steve Spurrier said he’s booted two players from his South Carolina teams for hitting women. They weren’t frontline players, like those at Florida State, so the action flew under the radar. But there are no exceptions.

“If you ever hit a girl, you’re finished,” Spurrier said. “Our players know if they ever hit a girl, they’re not going to play at South Carolina. And we enforce that rule.”

That statement should be issued by every coach at every level.

Earlier this year the SEC became the first major conference to adopt a rule that prohibits its teams from welcoming transfers who have left other schools for domestic violence or sexual assault.

The rule was instituted after Alabama accepted Jonathan Taylor, who had been booted from Georgia after a domestic-violence arrest.

Taylor faced a similar charge after enrolling at Alabama and was dismissed, although the charge was dropped. But should Taylor have resurfaced at an SEC school? The league now says no and is the only major conference with a such a policy.

Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, the SEC’s top returning quarterback said Tuesday that he doesn’t understand how violence against women happens at all.

“Most men, I guess you could say, are raised by their moms,” Prescott said. “So to go out there and hit a lady, that’s completely unacceptable.

“I’m not going to be shy to say that maybe you shouldn’t play college football again with a domestic violence issue. We shouldn’t have things in this day and time.”

But violence is all too prevalent. According to the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes, male athletes make up 3.3 percent of the college population and represent 19 percent of sexual assault and 35 percent of domestic-violence perpetrators.

Perhaps you’ve seen the public service clip of college athletes who are promoting “It’s On Us,” that creates awareness and asks for a pledge to accept responsibility for stopping sexual assault. Many major conferences such as the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC have supported the cause.

Awareness is critical, and so is condemnation by peers. Prescott was the victim of violence in March, when he and two teammates were the victims of an unprovoked attack during a spring break trip to Florida. Prescott was hit in the head with a bottle, suffered facial cuts and wears an inch-long scar next to his right eye.

To him, hitting a woman is another matter.

“We’re grown men in this,” Prescott said. “I don’t think another grown man or somebody else should have to tell you not to put your hands on a woman.

“We need to, as men, get better and get past that.”

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BlairKerkhoff.

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