With Jeffrey Simmons, Dan Mullen Must Prove Bulldogs will not Win at All Costs

Nov 28, 2015; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen looks up at the scoreboard during the second quarter of the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 28, 2015; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen looks up at the scoreboard during the second quarter of the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports /

Incoming Five Star prospect Jeffrey Simmons handled an altercation between his sister and another woman poorly, and now it is time for Dan Mullen to send a message this type of behavior will not be tolerated.

As you have all probably heard, Jeffrey Simmons was videotaped violently punching a woman who was involved in a physical altercation with his sister (if you choose to click the link to the video, please be advised it is violent and there is lots of foul language). And because of it, the Mississippi State coaches, fans, and Jeffrey Simmons have come to a crossroads.

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In the seven years Dan Mullen has been the head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, there have been very few off field incidents involving high profile players. There have been some, but nothing will come close to touching what Dan Mullen is having to deal with today.

Jeffrey Simmons was violently hitting a woman. He was violently hitting a woman who was no match for him in physical prowess. And Dan Mullen must punish punitively as a result.

Understand this isn’t about whether or not Jeffrey Simmons will be charged, was at fault, or whether or not he was an instigator. Because I don’t believe the answer to any of those things is yes.

If you watch the film, I don’t believe Simmons will be charged because the woman in the blue shirt appeared to be the instigator. She was the one who threw the first punch, and she was the one who escalated an already heated and intense environment. There are so many poor decisions in this incident, it is hard to keep count. But even though Jeffrey Simmons will likely not be charged, Dan Mullen still needs to send a message to Simmons and the rest of the Mississippi State football team.

Hitting a woman will not be tolerated.

And we as fans need to also be clear that we won’t tolerate such behavior either from the players who represent the school so many of us graduated from. While I think that is how we should respond, I fully understand many won’t agree.

I ran this poll on Saturday night on Twitter. 306 people voted their opinion.

I have no idea how representative this is of our fan base, but 306 people is enough to tell me there is a really good chance over 50% of our fans are willing to look the other way in regards to Jeffrey Simmons. And I think that’s a problem.

I’ve seen and heard many of our fans criticize Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss coaching staff for handling any discipline problems poorly. We criticized Freeze for keeping Chad Kelly on the team after he threatened to go get a machine gun at a night club, and the only discipline he received was a mission trip to Haiti. We criticized him when the Nkemdiche brothers were accused of viciously beating a fraternity member and then had issues with Spice at the end of their Ole Miss careers.

I’ve seen these same fans who were so critical of the head coach of our rival already start to justify the actions of Jeffrey Simmons. People have already begun to blame the victim, say we haven’t heard his side of the story, or try to claim he was defending his sister. With the video of him pummeling a woman who was no match for him, we have all we need to make a decision.

Regardless of who started what, it is never okay to hit a woman. In this day and age of Ray Rice and Greg Hardy, Jeffrey Simmons must know that. And if he wanted to simply defend his sister, Simmons should have pulled the woman off his sister without throwing a punch. He tried to do so initially, but gave up after one attempt. He and the numerous people looking on should have stepped in and pulled the two apart. Instead, Simmons elected to end the altercation by thrusting himself into the situation.

If we as fans try to justify his actions or ask him to be held accountable is, at the end of the day, of minor significance. What is important is how Dan Mullen chooses to handle the necessary discipline for Jeffrey Simmons.

I ran the poll thinking the only real options were to honor his scholarship or to release him from his letter of intent. With a little more time to think about the entirety of the situation, Mullen has some more options in front of him, and they are better than simply keeping him or getting rid of him.

If I were in Dan Mullen’s shoes, I’d give Jeffrey Simmons one of two options and let Simmons choose his own discipline. The first option would be to serve a one year suspension. As awful as the video is, (and lets be honest, the fact there is a video makes it worse) I don’t believe someone should forfeit the right to pursue a career in football. But I would tell Simmons he has to give up a year of eligibility.

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I would not give Simmons a complete release from his letter of intent. Giving Simmons the opportunity to reopen his recruitment to find a team who would be willing to take the PR hit from bringing in a player who repeatedly punched a woman wouldn’t be a punishment. He would be on the field in 2016, and Simmons would have effectively been handed a get-out-of-jail-free card.

However, if he wanted to play football this season, he could do like many others who have academic issues to straighten out, or they have an image problem they need to rehabilitate. Simmons could elect to enroll and play at the JUCO level.

Many Mississippi State fans won’t be happy with either of these options. The first option means we lose a year of playing time for one of the most talented players to sign a letter of intent with the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The second option means we could lose his services completely if he were to sign with another team when it came time for him to sign after his JUCO service was up.

Doing the right thing is not always easy. Punishing Jeffrey Simmons with an appropriate level of discipline will likely impact the performance of the team on the field. But Dan Mullen must show punching a woman and thrusting yourself into an altercation the way Simmons did will not be tolerated, regardless of how talented the player might be.

Dan Mullen has an important decision to make. He can choose to send a message or to possibly start sliding down a very slippery slope when it comes to team discipline. The entire country will be watching to see which path he chooses.