Ole Miss responds to NCAA allegations, self-imposes sanctions

Dr. Saturday
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Four months after receiving a notice of allegations from the NCAA, Ole Miss released its response Friday and announced self-imposed penalties to the football program in the process.

The school announced it has implemented a “double-digit reduction of scholarships” and a “significant reduction in off-campus evaluation days and official and unofficial visits” for the football program. In all, Ole Miss imposed a reduction of 11 football scholarships through 2018.

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A financial penalty of $159,325 was also self-imposed.

The notice of allegations, which was released in conjunction with the school’s response, detailed 13 violations stemming from the football program – nine of which came from Hugh Freeze’s tenure as head coach. Freeze was hired in December 2011. The two other football violations were committed by former Houston Nutt assistants.

Other violations were from the track and field and women’s basketball programs.

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The football violations included the following:

- A booster provided vehicle use (plus an interest-free car loan) to football players between August 2014 and August 2015. The NCAA valued these extra benefits at approximately $7,495.
In August 2014, a Level I violation was committed when a booster gave $800 in cash to a football player’s family member.

- On 12 occasions between June 7, 2013 and May 27, 2014, a booster provided free lodging to a football player’s mother and then-boyfriend, totaling approximately $2,253.

- A booster helped the school recruit prospective student-athletes by “engaging in recruiting activities that promoted” the football program, including “providing the prospects with various recruiting inducements.” The NCAA valued these “inducements,” which included transportation and meals, at approximately $2,250. The NCAA says current Rebels assistant knew of the booster’s involvement and “at times facilitated” the booster’s involvement.

- Chris Kiffin, a current Ole Miss assistant, provided “two nights’ lodging” at his home in the summer of 2013. Kiffin also “arranged for three family members who were not parents or legal guardians” of a recruit to “receive impermissible recruiting inducements,” including meals and lodging, during the prospect’s official visit. In another violation, Kiffin had “impermissible, off-campus contact” when he had a 10-minute recruiting conversation with a prospect in a private office at a high school in May 2014.

- In the summer of 2010, former assistants David Saunders and Chris Vaughn “engaged in in fraudulence or misconduct in connection with the ACT exams of three then football prospective student‐athletes.” The fraudulent exam scores “allowed the prospects to satisfy NCAA initial eligibility academic requirements.” 

Vaughn also committed a violation when he “communicated with witnesses of an NCAA enforcement investigation after being admonished on multiple occasions from having such communications.”

- The NCAA also says Vaughn “knowingly provided false or misleading information to the institution and enforcement staff.” Saunders also “knowingly provided false or misleading information regarding his knowledge of and/or involvement in violations of NCAA legislation,” the NCAA says.

In a letter posted on Ole Miss’ website, chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter and athletic director Ross Bjork said the school asked the NCAA Committee on Infractions to delay its case due to the information involving former offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil that came to light during the NFL draft. Messages were posted to the Instagram account of Tunsil showing alleged payments from school officials.

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“On the first day of the 2016 NFL Draft, new information came to light involving a former football student-athlete. That very night, the University and NCAA began a joint review to determine whether bylaws have been violated, and we hope this review will be concluded soon,” the letter says. “To ensure fairness to all parties and pursuant to COI procedure, we have asked the COI to remove the hearing from this summer’s docket until this review can be completed and closed.”

For more Ole Miss news, visit RebelGrove.com.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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