Jeffery Simmons' Mississippi State football career will begin in 2016 and he could see the field as soon as the second game of the season.
The school announced Thursday that Simmons, a five-star defensive end recruit, would be allowed to enroll at the school "with conditions." Those conditions include counseling and a one-game suspension.
“Based on conversations our staff has had with school, community and church leaders in Noxubee County, this incident appears to be uncharacteristic of Jeffery,” Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a statement. “It’s a highly unique circumstance to administer discipline to a student for an incident that occurred prior to that individual joining our university. However, it’s important that Jeffery and other potential MSU students understand that these type of actions and poor decisions are not acceptable.
“We expect the structure and discipline Jeffery will be a part of in our football program to benefit him. Jeffery will be held accountable for his actions while at MSU, and there will be consequences for any future incidents.”
Simmons was captured on video in March punching a woman multiple times in an apartment complex parking lot. He's facing msdemeanor disturbing the peace charges for his role in the altercation and Mississippi State's statement does address that Simmons "used physical force" in the incident.
However, the statement also said Simmons used that force "in an effort to break up a domestic fight between his sister and another adult woman. Here's the video captured of the incident, and Simmons' alleged attempts to break it up. As you can see in the video (which admittedly does not provide the full context), Simmons is punching the woman while she is on the ground:
Simmons' suspension is for the season-opening game against South Alabama. He is also "required to complete any program prescribed" by the university's student counseling office. The decision to allow Simmons to enroll and immediately be part of the team comes one week after Baylor fired coach Art Briles and revealed the findings of an independent investigation into the way the school (mis)handled sexual assault allegations.
Simmons, who in a Facebook post took "full responsibility" for his actions that occurred the night of the incident, is the No. 1 strongside defensive end in the country and the No. 1 prospect in the state of Mississippi. He's the only five-star recruit in Mississippi State's 2016 recruiting class.
In 2014, Oklahoma incoming freshman running back Joe Mixon, also a five-star recruit, was captured on video punching a woman at a restaurant in July. Mixon, who was facing a charge of assault, was suspended by the school for the entire 2014 season.
Mixon took a plea deal in his case and played an integral role in Oklahoma's 2015 run to the College Football Playoff. Despite Mixon sitting out an entire season, Oklahoma still received a lot of well-deserved criticism for keeping Mixon on the team.
Mississippi State deserves all of the criticism Oklahoma received and more. The school could have replicated the punishment Mixon got. Instead, it gave Simmons a football punishment 1/12th the duration, (though it did take the wise step in offering Simmons help via counseling) and it's for a game that he's not needed for anyway.
If Mississippi State wanted to have a one-game suspension that had any impact, it should have been for a game against an SEC West opponent. Instead, the school's actions make it easy to interpret that winning football games is of the highest priority.
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