SEC may expand restrictions on transfers with arrest records

DESTIN, Fla. — Last year, the SEC instituted the Johnathan Taylor rule. This year, it will not institute a Jeffrey Simmons rule.

But there could still be some expansion of the SEC’s bylaws against signing transfers with a history of violence.

Simmons, a five-star Mississippi State recruit from Macon, Miss., was arrested in April and charged with simple assault and disturbing the peace. A video emerged showing Simmons hitting a woman to the ground.

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen offered no update on Simmons’ status on Tuesday night, nor did he respond to a question on what he thought when he watched the video.

“I’m not commenting on this stuff right now,” Mullen said.

The SEC bylaw, adopted last year, only prohibits its schools from accepting transfers with a history of sexual assault or domestic violence. It was introduced by Georgia after the Johnathan Taylor situation; Taylor, dismissed by Georgia after a domestic violence arrest, was signed after a junior college stint by Alabama, where Taylor was subsequently arrested again for domestic violence.

This year, the SEC did look at expanding the rule to include high school recruits. But commissioner Greg Sankey said the decision was made not to do so.

“If you’re transferring from a university you’re generally of age. You’re 18 years or older. You’re in a higher education setting. You’re in an environment that may be very different than that in which you lived in as a minor,” Sankey said. “Generally speaking, before enrollment they are minors, and you may have different access to legal reference information. There was a lot of conversation about that, and whether the conference should have that role. The decision was to allow institutions to make determinations about enrolling certain individuals with behaviors.”

However, the SEC is now looking at a “little bit broader” definition of misconduct, Sankey said, including stalking.

“It’s not a wholesale list of felonies or something like that,” Sankey said. “It’s focused on interpersonal violence.”

The conference is also considering a bylaw that would create what Sankey called “an expectation of due diligence work” by schools and transfers. That predates the Baylor situation, Sankey added.

“What we’ll do is create a set of questions that will be expected to be asked, information that will be sought from a potential transfer student,” Sankey said.

While Mississippi State awaits making a decision on Simmons, Mullen did indicate he supported expanding the rule on transfers.

“I think there’s probably strong support for (restricting) guys who are convicted of a felony at a prior institution,” Mullen said, after emerging from the Tuesday coaches meeting. “There is strong support for that.”

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