June 03, 2016

DESTIN, Fla. (AP) The Southeastern Conference has expanded its ''serious misconduct'' rule for transfer students to include ''dating violence, stalking or conduct of a nature that creates serious concern about the safety of others.''

League presidents and chancellors voted Friday to amend the bylaw as the SEC wrapped up its annual spring meetings.

The new rule also mandates that schools perform background checks on transfers that satisfy the SEC's ''minimum due diligence expectations'' prior to allowing the student-athlete to practice or compete.

Commissioner Greg Sankey said future conversations about the bylaw might include broadening it to include incoming freshmen. For now, though, the rule has no bearing on Mississippi State defensive end Jeffery Simmons, who will be allowed to enroll in school and join the football team while facing misdemeanor assault charges for beating a woman during a fight in March.

''I can envision a continuing dialogue that looks at what we've done on serious misconduct relative to transfers, and the question will be asked is that sufficient?'' Sankey said. ''Should we remain there? That doesn't predict outcomes, but I envision that will be a conversation topic going forward. But I never anticipated that we were done.

''This conference has been wrestling with the issue, and it's not easy. I hope people can appreciate that. It's not as if this is done in a sterile environment, and I think that's an important conversation. I said that last year and I've said that this year. There's a point at which the legislation concluded for this week and we'll see what the future might hold without prediction.''

Simmons, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound pass-rusher and one of Mississippi State's prized recruits, was caught on video delivering several punches to the upper body and head of a woman who was on the ground.

The decision to allow him to enroll drew strong criticism, especially after recent events at other major football programs. Baylor ousted coach Art Briles last week after a report commissioned by the school found he inappropriately handled allegations of sexual assault and violence against some of his players. Tennessee, meanwhile, is facing a Title IX lawsuit that claims the school and athletic department mishandled sexual assault complaints against athletes.

Mississippi State announced Thursday that Simmons will be suspended for the first game of his college career, be evaluated by ''licensed professionals'' on campus and be required to complete any program prescribed by those specialists.

Bulldogs athletic director Scott Stricklin defended the decision and said the SEC was ''comfortable'' with it. Sankey disagreed with Stricklin's assessment of their conversation.

''I would not express comfort with a situation like that,'' Sankey said. ''It's difficult. We are the conference wrestling with these issues, and obviously in a public way. Certainly no one in the commissioner's office, in my office, would communicate comfort with that situation. The reality is those institution decisions are still left at that level.''

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AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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