Facing lack of institutional control charge from NCAA, Ole Miss imposes bowl ban

Dr. Saturday

Ole Miss confirmed Wednesday that it has received an updated Notice of Allegations (NOA) from the NCAA. As a result, the school announced via a 20-minute video that it has been charged with lack of institutional control and will impose a one-year postseason ban on top of the sanctions it imposed on itself in May 2016.

As part of that postseason ban, athletic director Ross Bjork said the school “must forfeit,” per SEC rules, its annual portion of SEC postseason football revenue for next year. That figure is “expected to be approximately $7.8 million,” Bjork said.

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Back in May, the NOA included 13 allegations against the football program (with others coming against women’s basketball and track and field) and the school’s responses to each. Now, the school said, the number of allegations is up to 21 against the football program. However, none of the new allegations “relate to NFL Draft night” when social media accounts of star Rebels offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil were hacked, revealing conversations in which Tunsil asks an Ole Miss staffer for money to help pay his mother’s bills.

Hugh Freeze is 39-25 in five seasons as the Ole Miss head coach. (Getty)
Hugh Freeze is 39-25 in five seasons as the Ole Miss head coach. (Getty)

In light of the Tunsil incident, Yahoo Sports reported in August that the investigation had expanded with the NCAA interviewing players enrolled at other schools who were recruited by Ole Miss.

In the video and subsequent transcript released Wednesday, Ole Miss detailed the new allegations, some of which it agrees with while others it will contest in full.

You can watch the full video from Bjork, head coach Hugh Freeze and chancellor Jeff Vitter below. The transcript is here.

Bjork laid out the new allegations in three categories. First he detailed three allegations the school agrees “there is sufficient credible and persuasive evidence” and will not contest:

1. The first allegation – it is alleged that a prospective student-athlete (Prospective Student-Athlete A) went hunting near campus on private land owned by a booster during his official visit in 2013 and on two or three occasions after he enrolled, and that the access to this land was arranged by the football program. This has been alleged as a Level III violation.

2. The second allegation – it is alleged that between March 2014 and January 2015, a former staff member (Former Staff Member A) impermissibly arranged for recruiting inducements in the form of lodging and transportation for one prospective student-athlete (Prospective Student-Athlete B) (who enrolled at another institution) and his companions on several visits to campus and for the impermissible transportation of another prospective student-athlete (Prospective Student-Athlete C) on one occasion. The total value of the lodging and/or transportation between the two prospective student-athletes is alleged to be $2,272. It is also alleged that the football program provided approximately $235 in free meals to Prospective Student-Athlete B (who enrolled at another institution) and Prospective Student-Athlete C and the friends of Prospective Student-Athlete B during recruiting visits in this same timeframe. The allegation is alleged as a Level I violation.

3. Third, it is alleged that Former Staff Member A violated the NCAA principles of ethical conduct when he knowingly committed NCAA recruiting violations between March 2014 and February 2015 and when he knowingly provided false or misleading information to the institution and enforcement staff in 2016. This is charged as a Level I violation.

Next, Bjork detailed another allegation, deemed a Level I violation, in which the school agrees “that evidence exists to support some – but not all – of the events alleged.” In that allegation, the NCAA says an Ole Miss staff member arranged contact between a recruit and two boosters, who paid the recruit (who eventually signed with another school) “between $13,000 and $15,600.”

In the fourth allegation, it is alleged that between April 2014 and February 2015, Former Staff Member A initiated and facilitated two boosters having impermissible contact with Prospective Student-Athlete B (who enrolled at another institution). It is further alleged that these two boosters provided Prospective Student-Athlete B (who enrolled at another institution) with impermissible cash payments during that timeframe and that Former Staff Member A knew about the cash payments. The value of the alleged inducements according to the NCAA is between $13,000 and $15,600. This is charged as a Level I violation.

“The university believes there is sufficient credible and persuasive evidence to conclude that the impermissible contact outlined in the fourth allegation occurred,” Bjork said of the allegation. “However, we are still evaluating whether there is sufficient credible and persuasive evidence to support the alleged payments and will make that determination over the course of the next 90 days.”

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Finally, Bjork said Ole Miss will fully contest five other allegations, including four Level I violations, including lack of institutional control and failure to monitor and that Freeze “violated head coach responsibility legislation.” Those five allegations are below in full:

5. Allegation number five – It is alleged that one former staff member (Former Staff Member B) arranged for a friend of the family of Prospective Student-Athlete D to receive impermissible merchandise from a store owned by a booster on one occasion in 2013 and that Former Staff Member A arranged for Prospective Student-Athletes B and E (both student-athletes enrolled at another institution) to receive merchandise in 2014, 15, and 16. The value of the alleged impermissible recruiting inducements is approximately $2,800 and is charged as a Level I violation.

6. Number six – It is alleged and we will contest that, in 2014 a current football coach had impermissible, in-person, off-campus contact with Prospective Student-Athlete B (who enrolled at another institution). This allegation is charged as a Level III violation.

7. Allegation seven – It is alleged that a booster provided money, food and drinks to Prospective Student-Athlete B (who enrolled at another institution) and his companions at the booster’s restaurant on two-to-three unspecified dates between March 2014 and January 2015. The value of the alleged inducements is between $200 and $600. This allegation is charged as a Level I violation that we will contest.

8. Another Allegation that we will contest is number eight – It is alleged that the head football coach violated head coach responsibility legislation. This allegation is not based upon personal involvement in violations by Coach Freeze but because he is presumed responsible for the allegation involving his staff that occurred between October 2012 and January 2016. Although we disagree, according to the NCAA, Coach Freeze has not rebutted the presumption that he is responsible for his staff’s actions. This is charged as a Level I violation.

9. Finally, allegation nine – It is alleged that the scope and nature of the violations demonstrate that the university lacked institutional control and failed to monitor the conduct and administration of its athletics program. This charge replaces the more limited failure to monitor charge in the January 2016 Notice of Allegations. This is charged as a Level I violation that we will contest.

“We will vigorously defend the university against those allegations we believe are not appropriately supported, including that we lacked institutional control and that our head football coach did not promote an atmosphere of compliance or monitor staff in our football program,” Bjork said. “In our official response, we will provide detailed, supporting information that demonstrates the institution’s strong control of the athletics program, including football, and Coach Freeze’s commitment to compliance.”

In a statement, Freeze said he puts an emphasis on complying with NCAA rules.

“I am extremely disappointed to learn that any member of my staff violated any SEC or NCAA rules, and as the head coach, I regret those actions. Any behavior by my staff that is inconsistent with that commitment to do things the right way simply does not reflect the emphasis I personally place on NCAA compliance,” Freeze said.

“As the record will show, I am constantly communicating to our compliance office, the SEC office, and industry leaders to make sure we are using best practices when it comes to doing things the right way. Contrary to the allegations, I have demonstrated throughout this entire process that I have a strong record of promoting compliance and monitoring my staff, and I look forward to presenting that evidence to the Committee on Infractions.”

His entire statement is below:


Vitter said the school plans to release the NOA along with its full response when “all parties have filed their respective responses,” likely in “late May.”

“At the end of this 90-day response period, the NCAA enforcement staff will have 60 days to write a case summary, followed by a hearing before the Committee on Infractions,” Vitter said. “The exact hearing date will be set by the Committee.”

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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