Ole Miss given bowl ban for 2018 and scholarship reductions

Dr. Saturday
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Ole Miss won’t be going to a bowl until after the 2019 season at the earliest.

The NCAA gave the Rebels a bowl ban for the 2018 season and cut the number of scholarships the Rebels have available as a result of the investigation into alleged compensation toward players and recruits.

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From the NCAA release: 

The University of Mississippi lacked institutional control and fostered an unconstrained culture of booster involvement in football recruiting, according to a Division I Committee on Infractions panel. Six football staff members and 12 boosters were involved in the violations, which included the provision of approximately $37,000 to prospects through cash payments, the use of automobiles, lodging, transportation, meals and apparel. Two staff members also helped arrange fraudulent standardized test scores for three prospects.

Ole Miss had previously self-imposed a bowl ban for the 2017 season and the NCAA’s official two-year bowl ban includes the 2017 season. The team has been put on three years NCAA probation and will have 13 fewer scholarships (from 85 total) to use over the next three seasons.

Ole Miss players who are seniors in 2018 will be allowed to immediately transfer to another school because of the bowl ban. You can read the entire NCAA report here. 

The school said it would be appealing the bowl ban for next season.

“While we continue to review the full report, we will vigorously appeal the 2018 postseason ban,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said in a statement. “The additional postseason ban is excessive and does not take not account the corrective actions that we have made in personnel structure, policies and processes to address the issues.”

Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said Friday afternoon the NCAA’s decision “Is an excessive application of the penalty structure” and said that citing Ole Miss punishments from the 1980s wasn’t applicable. 

He also called it a “gross misapplication of the charge of lack of institutional control.”

Vitter also said at the press conference that the school felt the course of the NCAA’s investigation changed in 2016 when a video and texts emerged during the first night of the NFL draft. A text conversation between former offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and an Ole Miss staffer was posted to Instagram. In the exchange, Tunsil and the staffer were discussing payment for Tunsil’s rent. 

Former head coach Hugh Freeze is suspended for two games as a head coach if he has a head coaching job next season. Freeze resigned in July, not because of NCAA-related issues, but because Ole Miss discovered what it termed a “pattern of conduct” in his phone records.

Freeze issued a statement Friday afternoon and made it clear that he can be an assistant coach somewhere without having to serve the suspension.

“The COI expressly agreed that I ‘proved an atmosphere of compliance and expected [my] staff to abide by the rules.’ They described my compliance efforts as ‘admirable’ and acknowledged ‘the many initiatives’ [I] took in an attempt to ensure rules compliance among [my] staff.’ I am very pleased that the COI listened to what I had to say and affirmed my efforts at promoting rules compliance,” Freeze said.

“While I appreciate the COI’s recognition of my compliance efforts, I am disappointed that the COI found that, in some instances, I failed to monitor my staff appropriately. I believe I made every effort to do so. Yet, I am encouraged that the COI found the failure to monitor was a mitigated violation based on, among other things, my personal record of compliance with NCAA rules.”

Per the NCAA report, “Mississippi fostered an unconstrained booster culture — particularly in boosters’ relationships with the football program and their involvement in recruiting. This is now the third case over three decades that has involved the boosters and the football program. Even [Freeze] acknowledged that upon coming to Mississippi, he was surprised by the ‘craziness’ of boosters trying to insert themselves into his program. At the hearing, Mississippi’s chancellor acknowledged his institution’s problem with boosters, characterizing one instance as ‘disturbingly questionable.’ The chancellor pledged to correct his institution’s booster issues.”

The school promoted Matt Luke to be the team’s interim coach following Freeze’s resignation and made Luke the full-time head coach following Ole Miss’ season-ending win over Mississippi State last week.

Here is an entire list of the penalties given to the school:

• Probation through 2020

• A fine of $5,000 plus one percent of the football’s budget over three years (self-imposed)

• Two-year postseason ban counting 2017

• Two-game conference suspension for Freeze if he’s hired as a head coach somewhere before Nov. 30, 2018. Based on the language in the release, Freeze does not face a penalty if he is hired as an assistant coach.

• Eight-year show-cause for the team’s operations coordinator. During the show-cause he can’t “hold any athletically related duties or have contact with prospective student-athletes and their families.”

• Five-year show-cause for assistant coach who helped facilitate the fraudulent standardized tests. A two-year show cause for another assistant coach.

• Five-year show-cause for the school’s assistant athletic director

• A total of 13 scholarship reductions through 2018-19

• Additional recruiting restrictions and disassociation of boosters

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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