DESTIN, Florida — Five-star defensive end Jeffery Simmons was allowed to enroll at Mississippi State under strict guidelines set by the university after hitting a woman, and athletics director Scott Stricklin believes the risk is worth taking.
Simmons was arrested in March after video surfaced of him hitting a woman on the ground multiple times as his sister and the other woman were engaged in a fight. He was charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor, and faces trial June 14.
MSU decided to allow the signee to enroll Friday under conditions after seeking advice from the president’s office, the school’s Title IX coordinator, the university’s legal counsel, the SEC office and several leaders in Simmons’ community in Noxubee County.
“We don’t have evidence of it having happened another time,” Stricklin said. “You meet the young man 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.”
MSU leaned on Simmons’ past more than the potential threat he may present on campus when making the decision. Simmons has been told he will need to seek counseling and will be suspended for one game whenever his college career begins.
“If this was a person who had a history, I think that’s something you’d look at,” Stricklin said. “Again, I think you’re trying to be fair to the young person and at the same time understand they made a mistake and there’s got to be consequences for that.”
Simmons has not been disciplined further, Stricklin said, because he was not “necessarily in our program with the structure, discipline and expectations” the school expects when the violent event occurred.
The SEC does not allow transfers with a history of misconduct to enroll in one of its schools, but the rule does not pertain to incoming freshmen.
“There’s a different expectation for someone who has been on a college campus and is in the environment and the structure of what we expect,” Stricklin said.
More punishment does not appear to be off the table, but the fact remains MSU is not 100 percent confident in the decision.
“Now, we may get feedback when he goes through this evaluation that makes us adjust that,” he said. “It’s hard to speculate what that will be.”
Simmons will seek counseling from the university’s counseling office, but could be referred to a counselor not associated with the campus.
Stricklin defended the position of the university on Simmons, the crown jewel of MSU’s signing class, but said he understands the outrage from some fans and others on social media.
The question is whether Simmons is a known risk.
“Which is why it’s really important we have a complete understanding of what his risk factors really are,” Stricklin said. “I have a surface understanding and on the surface, I don’t think Jeffery will have any issues. But I want someone who is a professional and is trained in this area to tell me that also.”
Simmons apologized about the incident on Facebook when the video surfaced.