Considering which coaches were on the podium yesterday, yeah, there was a fair amount of smoke blowing.
The most controversial issue entering Tuesday centered on Mississippi State’s decision to allow freshman defensive end Jeffery Simmons to enroll on campus following the disturbing video of him punching a woman several times during a fight in March. Simmons was given a lenient one-game suspension and will be evaluated by professionals at student counseling services as well as be required to complete any program prescribed by that office.
Naturally, the school met harsh criticism, which followed head coach Dan Mullen to Hoover, as he defended Simmons’ enrollment.
“It was very uncharacteristic of the personality of who he is, of the person I’ve known before and after,” Mullen said of Simmons. “He’s a young guy that was involved in a family street fight that made a very, very poor decision. But part of our process is, within our program, to help them learn how to make good decisions in their life. That’s what we need to do.”
… New Georgia coach Kirby Smart addressed the eight player arrests that have occurred since he was hired in December.
“It’s obviously concerning,” Smart said, “but I also know what it’s like to be a student-athlete and to be a student-athlete at the University of Georgia and to deal with these issues at other places. … It’s not something that’s new. Now, it’s not something I’m proud of, nor that we condone.
“We have got to do a better job educating our players and making sure we get the right players to make the right decisions. Ultimately, a couple of these are just dumb, bonehead decisions. They’re not disease or issue, they’re just dumb decisions, and we can’t have kids make those because they reflect [on] the entire program.”
Tennessee coach Butch Jones also said that the recent settlement in the university’s Title IX lawsuit wasn’t a “relief” because of the serious nature of sexual assault and how it affects many college campuses. Jones added that the program has had approximately 70 speakers meet with the team over the past couple of years about issues such as sexual assault and sexual violence.
“It’s something that we’ll continue to educate our players on and develop our players on,” Jones said.
Maybe it’s because of the nature of the transgressions involved, or maybe I’m being something of a home boy with this, but there was something about Smart’s “but I also know what it’s like to be a student-athlete and to be a student-athlete at the University of Georgia” that had a ring of authenticity about it. I’m sure he’s anything but thrilled about all the player arrests so far this year, but he’s not blind to their context, either.
Let’s face it: college kids, student-athletes included, do stupid shit. I was a college kid once; so were you. The trick for Smart, at least, is to know where the line is between stupid and reckless — and be willing to accept the consequences for judging misbehavior accordingly.