It sickens me that Mississippi State has allowed 5-star recruit Jeffery Simmons to enroll at the school, just three months after the defensive-line prospect was arrested for assault — in lieu of a video showing Simmons striking a woman on the ground, while his sister was engaged in a fight.
I don’t have a long list of societal expectations for young men, ages 18 or 19:
a) Be good to your parents.
b) Acknowledge and respect the tone of The Ten Commandments.
c) Never, ever raise an angry hand to a woman.
Therein lies the difficulty of tolerating this decision from the Mississippi State powers-that-be.
Yes, Simmons (court date set for June 14) might not have a documented history of violence against women (prior to the alleged March incident). Yes, the kid will presumably undergo counseling and adhere to strict conduct measures to preserve his active status with the program. And yes, America is often viewed as the Land of Second Chances.
“We don’t have evidence of it having happened another time,” said Mississippi State athletics director Scott Stricklin earlier this week. “You meet the young man (Simmons) and you come away with the idea that this is a pretty docile young man; but again that’s where the evaluation of a licensed professional — not me, somebody who knows how to read these behaviors, that’s when that comes into play.”
But in this important age of domestic-violence awareness, it also sends an awkward message to future Mississippi State recruits: You may get a free pass on this issue, if your incident occurs prior to enrollment … and your talents supersede that of a standard recruit.
The above comment was partially made in jest. For the sake of my own sanity, I sincerely hope Mississippi State believes more in Simmons the human being than Simmons the 5-star athlete.
If that isn’t the case … this partnership shall be doomed to fail, sooner than later.
Which brings me to this: America may be the Land of Second Chances in all walks of life, but that doesn’t mean Mississippi State should be the institution overseeing Simmons’ societal reprieve. In recent years, whenever a prominent college player commits a one-time serious error — especially in the wide-ranging realm of ‘assault’ — the affiliated school typically drops the kid from the program … but helps him/her latch on with a different conference.
(Note: The SEC does not permit active players with felonious pasts to directly transfer to other in-conference programs. However, this does not apply to incoming freshmen.)
It’s a good public relations move for the school, and it gives the kid a relative fresh start in a new conference setting or different part of the region.
In this case, though, the AD Stricklin, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, the university regents and the SEC, at large, are seemingly prepared to rest their faith into the hands of an emotionally charged kid, who has yet to attend his first college class.
And in a bit of full honesty, this frightens me to no end.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and Fox Sports.