Mississippi State announced it will allow Jeffrey Simmons to enroll and play football in 2016 even after he was videotaped hitting a woman in March.
Simmons offered a lengthy apology on Facebook after the video, which graphically displayed the 6-foot-3, 277-pound five-star defensive lineman striking a woman several times, was posted to the Internet.
Mississippi State said in its official release that the situation involved Simmons trying to break up a fight between his sister and another adult woman. Simmons, currently awaiting legal resolution to misdemeanor charges from the incident, will be allowed to enroll anyway and participate in summer school along with eight other true freshmen from the 2016 signing class.
"Based on conversations our staff has had with school, community and church leaders in Noxubee County, this incident appears to be uncharacteristic of Jeffery," athletic director 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."
Simmons will be suspended for this season's opening game against South Alabama.
According to Tony Barnhart, the school will "monitor" Simmons closely and the talented defensive lineman has no margin for error.
Source: Jeffery Simmons has been told he has no margin for error and will be "monitored closely."— Tony Barnhart (@MrCFB) June 2, 2016
Even with no margin for error and careful monitoring, Mississippi State has put its reputation on the line for Simmons. Video footage changes the way assault allegations resonate in the minds of fans (and human beings, for that matter) and often result in swift and immediate punishment. While the school has determined this to be a complex and nuanced scenario -- involving family and trying to break up a fight -- many will have trouble getting past the video footage of Simmons striking the woman.
Simmons was a five-star prospect ranked as the No. 19 player in the Class of 2016, according to the 247Sports Composite. The Macon, Mississippi, native chose the Bulldogs over Ole Miss and Alabama.