STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) Mississippi State will allow highly touted signee Jeffery Simmons to enroll in school and join the football team while facing misdemeanor assault charges for striking a woman during a fight in March.
Mississippi State announced Simmons would be suspended for the first game of his college career, be evaluated by ''licensed professionals at the university's Student Counseling Services and be required to complete any program prescribed by that office.''
The Bulldogs report to preseason camp Aug. 1 and open the season Sept. 3 against South Alabama.
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The altercation involving Simmons, his sister and another woman happened in his hometown of Macon and was caught on video and posted on the internet. Simmons can be seen landing several punches to the upper body and head of a woman who is lying on the ground.
Simmons is a 6-foot-4, 255-pound defensive end and one of top-rated recruits out of Mississippi to sign this year.
Mississippi State's decision is likely to draw extra scrutiny considering recent events at other major football programs. A week ago Baylor ousted coach Art Briles after a report commissioned by the school found he inappropriately handled allegations of sexual assault and violence against some of his players. Also, Mississippi State's Southeastern Conference rival, Tennessee, is facing a Title IX lawsuit that claims the school and athletic department mishandled sexual assault complaints against athletes.
''Based on conversations our staff has had with school, community and church leaders in Noxubee County, this incident appears to be uncharacteristic of Jeffery,'' Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a statement released by the school. ''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.''