By Rahul Lal
“The very God-complex that destroys [public relations] for the NFL is being born and raised by the monster that is college football.”
Jeffrey Simmons, a five-star high school football recruit, came under scrutiny recently for a video that showed him striking a woman several times. Simmons, who is 6’3″, 277 pounds, is set to play defensive line for Mississippi State this coming season.
While the player released a public apology, his actions can never be justified. Yet Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, in suspending Simmons for a single game, did essentially that.
“It was very uncharacteristic of the personality of who he is,” said Mullen. “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 make good decisions in their life, that’s what we need to do.”
Fitz had a massive issue with this statement.
“It is, yet again, an example of prioritizing football over right and wrong,” he said. “College football is part of the creation of the God complex these players walk around with… by the time these guys get to the NFL, there’s already been a created aura that they feel around themselves because they feel that they can get away with anything.”
Fitz went on to talk about how collegiate athletics depends on talent rather than character.
“If he was a two-star or a three-star recruit, if he was a guy who was less epic to their offseason storyline, [would it only be] one game? No,” said Fitz. “Man, you can punch a woman and get one game and get to play? Good God, what does the guy have to do to get any real punishment?”
In contrast to the situation at Mississippi State, Fitz highlighted the incredible presentation by NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James during the ESPYs’ opening last night. The all-stars talked about the importance of influential people using their power for good, to promote non-violence, to show us all how to be better people.
“They’re doing what, in my mind, a college should absolutely be doing,” said Fitz alluding to last night’s powerful message. “Getting to play football is not a right, it’s a privilege.”
This approach, Fitz believes, should start with Mullen and be supported by the university at every level. Suspending Simmons for one game and allowing him to play out the season isn’t a real penalty. It doesn’t send the right message.
“Congratulations, Mississippi State! Is that what you want out of your football program? Is that what you want out of your head coach?”
“This was an opportunity; this was an opportunity to change the game.” It was also an opportunity to change the player. His actions may reflect his age and/or immaturity, but that doesn’t excuse Mullins from his stated goal of helping players like Simmons make good decisions. Part of that lesson should be that bad decisions have real consequences.
“When he goes to the NFL and behaves the same way, hasn’t he simply been taught by you, as a coach, and your program that he can get away with whatever he wants as long as he plays well on the field?” asked Fitz. “The NFL has monsters playing; we know that, we see that. It’s thrown in our face all the time. What we’re forgetting is that college football is part of the problem.”
The full show includes more on Jeffrey Simmons and Mississippi State as well as Deflategate and fixing the college football playoff scheduling. Check out the latest episode of The Jason Fitz Show.
Rahul Lal is an LA native stuck in a lifelong, love-hate relationship with the Lakers, Dodgers and Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter here.