By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork said his school will fully comply with an NCAA investigation into its women’s basketball program.
The school is considering self-imposed sanctions, he said, amid charges of impermissible recruiting contact and academic misconduct which came to light on Saturday.
That was when Bjork announced that new head coach Adrian Wiggins had been placed on administrative leave and that assistant coaches Kenya Landers and Michael Landers, a married couple, had been fired.
Also, junior college transfers Kay Caples and Brandy Broome were declared ineligible.
Caples was the junior college player of the year in 2012, leading Trinity Valley – where the Landers were co-head coaches – to the national championship.
Two remaining assistant coaches – one of them Brett Frank, a long-time Wiggins assistant who holds the title of associate head coach – and a video services coordinator will lead the team until an interim coach is named. Bjork hopes an interim will be named soon.
Bjork called the women’s basketball players – including senior guard Maggie McFerrin of Tupelo – “a strong group of young women.”
The school learned of the charges through a letter from the SEC.
“We had high expectations when we hired coach Wiggins back in March, and there was new-found energy around Ole Miss basketball,” Bjork said. “We’re disappointed that the actions of a few individuals and our findings have led us to where we are today.”
Though the coach is technically on leave, Bjork was adamant that Wiggins, who was 175-66 in seven seasons plus a short interim stint at Fresno State, will not be the coach at Ole Miss.
While Wiggins hasn’t yet been implicated in an active investigation, Bjork said all head coaches are accountable for the actions of their assistants. Head coaches should, “know everything and do everything you can to have all the information on the table regarding how we recruit and why we recruit.”
Bjork: “Ultimate responsibility rests with each head coach in all of our programs, and we discovered and determined that more could have been done.”
The administrative leave decision was made by Bjork to give Wiggins and his family a measure of financial footing during a time of transition.
Wiggins contract called for him to be paid $400,000 annually. He’ll be paid the monthly equivalent of a $225,000 annual salary through March 31. The remaining $175,000 would have come from the UMAA Foundation and has been forfeited.
“The tough part about all of this is that Adrian Wiggins is a good man, and we hope the best for he and his family as he moves forward,” Bjork said.