The Ole Miss football program is self-imposing a one-year postseason ban. The news comes as the university announced Wednesday the NCAA is accusing it of eight additional athletic compliance violations, on top of 13 allegations the NCAA levied against Ole Miss last year. There are eight new allegations, now 21 in total.
The university announced the new allegations in a videotaped statement featuring Ole Miss chancellor Jeff Vitter, athletic director Ross Bjork, and head football coach Hugh Freeze. That video runs about 20 minutes long. Here’s the video in text form, basically.
It’s important to remember that, at this point, all we know of these allegations is what Ole Miss is describing. The NCAA hasn’t released a copy of its Notice of Allegations, the official document by which its investigators accuse a school of breaking the rules.
The allegations don’t have anything to do with former Rebel offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil’s comments at least year’s NFL Draft, the school says.
Ole Miss isn’t contesting everything the NCAA is alleging.
There are three new allegations with which the school is agreeing there is “sufficient credible and persuasive evidence to support the allegation.” They are:
- A recruit went hunting on a booster’s private land during an official visit in 2013, then on two or three occasions after signing and enrolling at Ole Miss. This is a Level III NCAA violation — not as bad as a Level II or, the worst, a Level I.
- A former Ole Miss staffer set up improper lodging and transportation benefits for two recruits between March 2014 and January 2015. These benefits were worth more than $2,000, the NCAA says, and are classified as the most serious type of allegation: Level I.
- That same staffer lied to both the NCAA and Ole Miss about knowingly committing recruiting violations. That’s a Level I, too.
On one allegation, Ole Miss says evidence supports “some – but not all – of the events alleged.”
Ole Miss isn’t entirely claiming its innocence but could make a case the NCAA is going too far, or dealing with incomplete or partially inaccurate information:
- The same staffer mentioned above set up one of those same recruits with two boosters, who made cash payments to the recruit between April 2014 and February 2015. The NCAA values these “inducements” between $13,000 and $15,600. The twist here? That recruit didn’t even go to Ole Miss.
Ole Miss isn’t contesting that this booster-to-recruit contact happened, but it says it’s still evaluating if there’s evidence to support the payments having been made. This would be a Level I violation, if it were proven.
Here are the allegations Ole Miss says it’s going to fight in full:
- Former staffers arranged for recruits and their friends to get “impermissible merchandise” from a booster’s store. The NCAA says the value of these “impermissible recruiting inducements” is about $2,800. This is a Level I, also.
- A booster who owns a restaurant gave between $200 and $600 of money, food and drinks to a recruit and his companions between March 2014 and January 2015, spread over a couple of occasions. This is a Level I.
- In 2014, a current member of Ole Miss’ football staff had impermissible, off-campus contact with a recruit who wound up going elsewhere. This is Level III.
- Freeze “violated head coach responsibility legislation,” not because he did anything himself, but because he’s responsible for allegations involving his staff members. Ole Miss says it disagrees but Freeze “has not rebutted the presumption that he is responsible for his staff’s actions.” This is a Level I charge.
- The NCAA’s also charging Ole Miss with a lack of institutional control — a serious, blanket charge that a program hasn’t kept its own house in order. Ole Miss says it’s going to contest the lack-of-control charge, which would be a Level I violation if it stuck. That charge replaces a lesser “failure to monitor” charge that was a part of the NCAA’s initial package of 13 charges against the program.
The NCAA defines “institutional control” as “the efforts institutions make to comply with NCAA legislation and to detect and investigate violations that do occur.” By charging Ole Miss with a lack of it, the NCAA is saying Ole Miss didn’t make an adequate effort to prevent rule-breaking and stop it when it happened.
Every single new charge is against Hugh Freeze’s program.
All of them stem from alleged incidents after Freeze took over the head job for the 2012 season. Some of the 13 initial allegations are for things the NCAA says happened before Freeze was on the job — most prominently, academic fraud the NCAA says two ex-Ole Miss assistants committed in the summer of 2010.
#OleMiss also will forfeit its annual SEC postseason money, which is approximately $7.8 million, as per league rules.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) February 22, 2017
Ole Miss is going to lose quite a bit of money by not playing in a postseason game in 2017, and not all of that’s its own lost bowl cash.
Now, the NCAA enforcement machine keeps churning.
When a school gets an initial or updated NOA from the NCAA, as Ole Miss now has, it gets a 90-day window to respond in writing. (Extensions can be granted.) Eventually, the NCAA and the defendant school have a hearing before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, and at some point, that panel rules there’s been wrongdoing or not.