Defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State's highest-rated freshman, will be allowed to play all but one game in his debut season for the Bulldogs, despite a March video of him repeatedly punching a woman on the ground.
If he doesn't redshirt, which would be highly unusual for a five-star, the game he'll miss will be the Sept. 3 home opener against mid-major South Alabama, one of MSU's two least important games of the season. That means MSU would have its five-star on the field in time for the far more valuable Sept. 10 game, the SEC opener against South Carolina. Even with a redshirt, MSU will still have termed this as a suspension "for the first game of his college career."
In its statement, the school said Simmons will be "held accountable for his actions while at MSU."
That's bullshit. He's already not being held accountable for his actions. The debate about a fair suspension for a 275-pound man repeatedly punching a prone woman should be how many months or years at the top level he should miss, not how many minutes.
In the video and according to reporting, Simmons involves himself in a struggle between his sister and another woman. Before walking away, the 6'2 lineman delivers a rapid series of downward punches to the woman's upper body with children nearby.
He was charged with simple assault and disturbing the peace.
Here is one angle, and a Mississippi CBS affiliate has a more disturbing one.
In its statement, Mississippi State described that as "used physical force."
Simmons posted a lengthy apology on Facebook at the time, saying "I take full responsibility" and claiming he was reacting in defense of his family. Claiming to own a mistake and accept the consequences is one thing, but failing to require an athlete to pay any price beyond a one-game suspension is a failure and an embarrassment on Mississippi State's part.
College football has a gigantic problem with violence against women. Suspending him from this one game is such a minor penalty that it's about the same as not suspending him at all ... for punching a woman.
From MSU's statement:
After careful assessment, the MSU athletics department has determined Simmons may be a part of the football team, but he will be evaluated by the licensed professionals at the university’s Student Counseling Services and be required to complete any program prescribed by that office. Additionally, he will be suspended for the first game of his college career.
"Based on conversations our staff has had with school, community and church leaders in Noxubee County, this incident appears to be uncharacteristic of Jeffery," MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin said. "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."
"Structure and discipline" can benefit anyone. MSU's actions suggest it's far more interested in the condition of its defensive line than in the behavior of its most athletic students and in the safety of women.
As it happens, MSU's athletic director is at SEC meetings and spoke to media Thursday night. It didn't go all that well.
Stricklin at loss for words when @Andy_Staples points out one game suspension is same as targeting— Matt Baker (@MBakerTBTimes) June 2, 2016
Miss St AD Scott Stricklin: 5 seconds of action that's "a really poor choice' shouldn't preclude Jeffery Simmons from going to college.— Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonCBS) June 2, 2016
Stricklin said the possibility of another school picking up Simmons "crosses your mind" when allowing him to enroll.— Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonCBS) June 2, 2016
Stricklin says there's a "different expectation" for a high school recruit compared to someone enrolled in college— Matt Baker (@MBakerTBTimes) June 2, 2016