By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Mississippi State has refuted a report saying a series of billboards constituted an NCAA violation, but the school is taking them down as a precautionary measure.
The Oxford Eagle reported Thursday that MSU’s “Play with the Best” billboard in Oxford was taken down Wednesday because it was “a violation of NCAA recruiting rules.”
Bracky Brett, MSU’s compliance director, said the school has not spoken with the NCAA on the matter.
“We have not reported any kind of violation,” Brett said, “but we’re continuing to look into it and will continue to do so as we would any issue that comes across the desk.”
MSU put up five such billboards around the state the first week of January: In Aberdeen, Biloxi, Clinton, Morton and Oxford. They were originally scheduled to come down near the end of this month, but all have come down or will come down shortly, Brett said.
The one in Oxford, located off Jackson Avenue, caused quite a stir among Ole Miss fans. Chad Thomas, MSU’s assistant athletics director for marketing, said last week that Oxford was simply one of the “major markets” the school was looking to hit with its billboard campaign.
An MSU official said Wednesday that the Oxford billboard was taken down because, “It was just time for it to come down.”
State spent a total of $3,200 on the five boards, which featured the phrase “Play with the Best,” along with the Mississippi Sate banner logo, the hailstate.com website, and a picture of MSU football players hoisting the Egg Bowl trophy after defeating Ole Miss in November.
When the Daily Journal asked the NCAA about the billboards, a spokesperson said, “Since this is a specific situation, you should contact the school.”
The NCAA bylaw in question is 13.4.3, which regulates recruiting advertisements. It prohibits advertising that is “designed to solicit the enrollment of a prospective student-athlete,” with some exceptions.
Thomas told the Journal last week that the idea for the “Play with the Best” billboards came from the football office.