David Cloninger

Mullen trips, trods over Simmons issue

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen spoke at the SEC Media Days on Tuesday, and the prevailing question was about the one-game suspension of incoming 5-star recruit Jeffrey Simmons for hitting a woman caught on video.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen spoke at the SEC Media Days on Tuesday, and the prevailing question was about the one-game suspension of incoming 5-star recruit Jeffrey Simmons for hitting a woman caught on video. AP

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen knew he’d be asked, and he’d be asked several times. Such is the situation when being whisked from room to room, all filled with reporters looking for the unique sound bite that anyone just might drop.

Knowing that, I’m still stunned how Mullen managed to answer, and not answer, the same question.

To paraphrase, the question was: Dan, how can Jeffrey Simmons only be suspended one game (which is equal to the penalty for targeting) after repeatedly striking a woman?

To paraphrase, Mullen answered: I wasn’t involved in the decision. Wait, I was somewhat involved in the decision. Well, I’d hate for anybody to be judged by 10 seconds of videotape. To be honest, I can’t answer what I’d do if my wife or daughter was that woman, because I don’t know that my family would be in that situation.

All together now: “Huh?”

We all know the answer to why Simmons was allowed to enroll at Mississippi State, and why he’ll only miss one game, as despicable as that reason is. He’s a five-star prospect.

This is only the latest example of talent turning blind eyes, despite the sickening video of Simmons and the other numerous disgusting acts of football players assaulting women. As much as schools and conferences try to prevent such atrocities, they’re still happening – and actions of some coaches and programs to lightly punish such offenses only fuels that.

Mullen brought up some salient points. How one blip of an 18-year-old’s life shouldn’t define the rest of it. How Simmons deserved a second chance. How Simmons could benefit from being in a structured environment with father figures, since he never had one.

He’d have done much better for himself if he’d have brought up other salient points, when this decision was being made. As in, “The university admitted him and gave him one game, and I’m adding the other 11 games of the season to that. After that, we’ll decide on his future.” Or better, “I’m the coach, and nobody who hits girls is gonna play for me.”

No amount of angry words and incredulous stances is going to change the resolution. Simmons will be eligible in Week 2. That was the decision the university and athletic department agreed upon.

Which brings up another question. If Simmons is again involved in anything remotely close to the previous incident, what happens to the powers-that-be that decided to let him into school?

That question needs an answer. A definitive one.

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