The strange tale of Mario Mathis, Ole Miss and a ‘revoked’ scholarship

Graham Watson

Mario Mathis' parents can't get on the same page regarding the fate of their son's scholarship to Ole Miss.

On Monday, Mathis' father, David Fletcher, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the Rebels and coach Hugh Freeze had revoked his son's scholarship because of a torn ACL.

Mathis had surgery for the injury in January and committed to the Rebels in May, but Fletcher said when he and his son went to a camp at Ole Miss this past weekend, Freeze informed them the scholarship would not be honored.

"They told us he was no longer on the commitment list," Fletcher told the AJC. "They basically pulled the scholarship offer.

"It was frustrating for that to happen because we thought we were solid with Ole Miss. Mario loves the place, loves the coaches. We thought it was a done deal. It kind of surprised us. Well, it definitely surprised us. But I know college football is business."

But that's not how Mathis' mother, Denise Fletcher, sees it. Denise Fletcher said her son (and by extension, her husband) knew from the beginning that Mathis' scholarship would be contingent on the health of his knee. Doctors looked at that knee this past weekend and weren't satisfied it was healing properly.

"Ole Miss has never been anything but honest with Mario," Denise Fletcher told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "He's not guaranteed a scholarship anywhere unless he can play on that leg. You can't give a scholarship to someone who can't physically play. It's ridiculous to think otherwise."

Both parents acknowledged that the scholarship could be reinstated if Mathis' shows improvement and Ole Miss still has a scholarship to give. However, David Fletcher's interpretation of what happened to his son's scholarship might cause Ole Miss to walk away altogether.

Denise Fletcher's version of events seems much more plausible. Mathis injured the knee prior to his junior season, but played on it because it was misdiagnosed as a knee sprain. Ole Miss offered the scholarship knowing Mathis' medical history and Denise Fletcher's assertion that there was a tie between the scholarship and the health of the knee seems like a Ole Miss was covering itself in case Mathis wasn't ready to go - a perfectly reasonable agreement.

Of course, Mathis still has time and options. He also was being courted by Mississippi State, South Florida and South Alabama and his mother claims that Freeze revoking the scholarship offer allows Mathis to explore other schools.

"Let's say that Mario doesn't get back to the level of a Division 1 player," Denise Fletcher told the Commercial Appeal. "Coach Freeze made it very clear he didn't want to preclude Mario from any scholarship offer, because he wants him to get into college. It's difficult for Mario to talk to other coaches if he's still committed to Ole Miss.

"I'm sure Ole Miss knows other schools at this point are calling Mario like crazy. To put his name back out there in recruiting was a big deal. Based on the fact Ole Miss has never been anything but honest with Mario, I assumed they knew that would happen. But Coach Freeze wants the best for Mario."

It's unfortunate that Mathis is caught between his parents' mixed stories and the subsequent media duel. Hopefully, Mathis' future recruiting won't suffer because of it.

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