There’s a social media narrative going on right now that says Ole Miss has lied regarding the number of alleged NCAA violations involving the current football staff.
Some have said that Ole Miss said that Hugh Freeze and his staff were not named in the violations.
Well, that’s wrong. That’s not what the school has said.
Clearly the school went immediately into spin mode and remains there now as it works on its response to the NCAA. The school has 90 days to respond which should put it around late April on the calendar.
I’m told Ole Miss will take almost all 90 days, if not all, to submit its response.
In the meantime the school is about self-preservation, getting ready its best possible response. All schools react similarly in this type of review.
The departure of Branden Wenzel, an on-campus recruiting assistant, was not related to the NCAA, the school said.
Interpret that however you wish. The timing does come within the same window as the school is preparing its next move.
Regarding football allegations by the NCAA, the school has issued two statements through athletics director Ross Bjork.
The key words that follow are “many” and “most.” The statements avoid the specifics you are trying to avoid when you are working to control the message.
Since the statements were released The Associated Press last week reported some key numbers that had not yet reached the public domain. The AP said there were 28 allegations total across the three sports, that 13 allegations dealt with football and that nine dealt with the current staff.
The AP also said the violations were a mix of levels I, II and III.
The school has not publicly confirmed The AP’s numbers.
You can debate whether or not the school was misleading, but it never said that no violations were attached to the current coaching staff.
The first statement was released in a group text with selected media on Friday, Jan. 29, the day the Yahoo story was published.
It read: “As has been the case for the past three years we are bound by confidentiality and cannot comment publicly on the matter. However, I can say that I’m confident in how our coaches and staff operate our program, and we take compliance, NCAA and SEC rules very seriously. We are working hard to seek a resolution to this matter.”
The second statement was released via email the next day, a Saturday afternoon.
It read: “Outside counsel for the University of Mississippi received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA – another step in a more than three-year process. Included in the notice are alleged violations of NCAA bylaws in women’s basketball in 2012; track and field in 2012-13; and in football, with many of the allegations dating back to the former football staff in 2010 and the withholding and reinstatement process around Laremy Tunsil in fall of 2015.
“To be clear, the NCAA has only brought allegations, and as part of the NCAA process, the University and others have 90 days to issue a response. We’ve been transparent throughout this process, and it is important to note that most of the football allegations are based upon facts that have been publicly disclosed previously in “self-reports” and reinstatement requests or have been reported publicly in connection with another NCAA case.
“Out of fairness to the individuals involved and the integrity of the NCAA process, we will not provide further details or comment until everyone has had an opportunity to review the allegations and respond. Once they do so, we will release the official notice and the university’s response. In all three sports, I am confident in the leadership of our current head coaches and the manner in which they operate their programs.”
Let’s assume the AP numbers are correct, and you’re dealing with nine violations that involve the Hugh Freeze staff.
The statement says “many” of the allegations date back to the 2010 staff “AND” are related to the Laremy Tunsil suspension and reinstatement.
Ole Miss listed Tunsil’s violations in October. There are five violations there. If you take the entire sentence at face value then five Tunsil violations and four by the previous staff gets you to nine violations. That’s “many” when you’re talking about 13 total football violations.
The statement never says Freeze and his staff are completely innocent of wrong-doing. It says the opposite. It notes the Tunsil matter.
The statement also seeks to minimize the football allegations when it says that “most” have already been self-reported OR deal with reinstatement requests (Tunsil) OR have been reported publicly in connection with another NCAA case (Louisiana-Lafayette).
If you consider the violations that fall under that definition you can almost get to nine that are said to involve the Freeze staff rather quickly. Five alone involve Tunsil. There was the matter involving sophomore defensive back C.J. Hampton at the beginning of the season. There were two more self-reports tacked on to the end of the AP story. That brings the total to eight.
Maybe there’s one more violation out there, a smoking gun that unravels the progress Ole Miss football has made in the last two years.
If it’s there, it’s not apparent right now, and three years of NCAA digging in Oxford have managed to remain quiet among the town’s good citizens. There’s no chatter of such.
How this all plays out remains to be seen, but the facts as we know them, or think we know them, do not leave the current coaching staff unscathed nor has it been stated as such in two public statements by the school’s athletics voice and policy maker.