Miss. State allows Jeffery Simmons to enroll after arrest; DE will be evaluated

BySam Khan Jr. ESPN logo
Friday, June 3, 2016

Signee Jeffery Simmons will be allowed to enroll and play football atMississippi State, but with conditions attached -- including a one-game suspension served in the season opener -- the schoolannounced Thursday.

Simmons was arrested in March and charged with simple assault and disturbing the peace after a video emerged on social media that appeared to show him hitting a woman several times after she fell to the ground. The defensive end prospect, who was ranked 84th overall in the 2016 ESPN 300 and signed with the Bulldogs in February, is awaiting legal resolution of the incident.

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen told ESPN on Friday that a wide range of school officials were involved in the decision to allow Simmons to play.

"As we looked at all of the details of the situation, beyond just the part of the video that's been in the media, we felt like he deserved a chance in life," Mullen said.

Mullen said Mississippi State's investigation went much deeper than just the video.

Asked why Simmons received only a one-game suspension and wasn't forced to sit out a year and prove himself, Mullen said, "That was all an administration decision."

The university issued a statement Thursday that said Simmons "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."

While he will be allowed to enroll for summer classes and participate in football activities, Simmons will be suspended for the Bulldogs' season opener against South Alabama on Sept. 3.

"Ultimately, if our president wasn't comfortable with it, he wouldn't have signed off on it," Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said Thursday. "I kept him abreast the whole time and took everything to him last week and explained everybody I talked with, from the dean of students, to our Title IX coordinator, to our legal counsel."

Stricklin said he was also in constant communication with the SEC and that the league office was "comfortable" with the university's decision.

"On the surface, I don't think Jeffery will have any issues [at Mississippi State]," Stricklin said. "But I want a professional trained in these issues to tell me also."

Stricklin acknowledged that Mississippi State has placed itself in a precarious legal position by allowing Simmons on campus should he have a repeat incident. Stricklin said the university also ran a background check on Simmons and found no other prior incidents.

"We expect the structure and discipline Jeffery will be a part of in our football program to benefit him," Stricklin said. "Jeffery will be held accountable for his actions while at MSU, and there will be consequences for any future incidents."

The mother of the Mississippi woman who was allegedly assaulted by Simmons told ESPN in March that the attack was the result of a long-standing dispute between her daughter and his family.

Stricklin said Simmons' situation was "unique" in that it wasn't "a sexual violence issue as defined by law."

"Our sense was this was a parking lot fight that got out of control, which is why he's not being charged with domestic violence or sexual assault," the AD said. "That doesn't make it OK."

Ultimately, Stricklin said, Mississippi State decided that "five seconds of a really poor choice caught on video shouldn't preclude a young person the opportunity to go to the university he wants to go to and compete."

As for the one-game suspension, Stricklin said it was "highly unique" to issue discipline to an incoming student, but wanted to set an example -- to Simmons and others -- "that these types of actions and poor decisions are not acceptable."

Simmons apologized for the incident on his Facebook page in the aftermath. He wrote: "My apology goes out to the Taylor Family and especially to Sophia Taylor. What was I thinking? Honestly, I wasn't thinking, all I could think was this is my family and I'm supposed to defend my family.I truly hope that you will find it in your hearts to forgive me for my actions."

The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Simmons was the 12th-ranked defensive end in the 2016 recruiting class and compiled 20.5 tackles for loss, 18.5 sacks, 21 quarterback hurries, three blocked field goal attempts and two blocked punts as a senior while helping Noxubee County High School winthe Mississippi Class 4A state championship.

ESPN staff writer Chris Low contributed to this report.

Related Video