May 27, 2016
When you saw the alert come across your smartphone as you headed out to enjoy Memorial Day weekend, you probably already knew what your reaction would be to Ole Miss’ response to the NCAA’s notice of allegations.
Ole Miss is dirty.
The Rebels are cheating.
There’s no way head coach Hugh Freeze is running a clean program.
If that was, indeed, your instant reaction to the news that the Rebels have self-imposed scholarship restrictions in football, suspensions in recruiting to two assistant coaches and a general three-year probation, please proceed to the comment section and take your victory lap.
The reputation of Ole Miss is tarnished by Friday’s release, and that reputation will be hard to shake.
How is that different than yesterday, though?
How is that different than last year?
It already was tarnished, and the only thing that can polish it up is time.
When former left tackle Laremy Tunsil went through the most embarrassing draft night in recent memory, any sports fan who either was still on the fence or hadn’t heard the intricacies of the case against the program suddenly became an expert and figured Ole Miss’ silence on that specific instance was deadly.
What aren’t deadly, though, are the actual penalties Ole Miss self-imposed.
As Chase Parham of RebelGrove.com noted on Twitter, the Rebels will dock themselves 11 scholarships over a four-year period as a result of the findings that include football, women’s basketball and track and field.
Jeffrey Wright of RebelGrove.com put together a handy spreadsheet of the allegations, response and whether Ole Miss agrees with the NCAA’s findings.
As that spreadsheet notes, of those Level I violations pertaining to football, the school agrees with all except one from the Houston Nutt era, which was related to ACT fraud under former assistants Chris Vaughn and David Saunders.
So out of the eight serious football-related allegations, the school felt it took proper action with its self-imposed punishment on the vast majority of them. The only one that might be questionable is related to former coaches from a previous regime. In this day and age of NCAA punishment, the individuals get hit harder than programs.
If you don’t believe me, ask former Southern Miss and Tennessee head basketball coach Donnie Tyndall, who got a 10-year show cause earlier this year, according to USA Today.
Rarely do NCAA cases pit school versus the NCAA. More times than not—this case included based on how many allegations Ole Miss agrees with—it’s the school working with the NCAA to come to a mutually agreed upon resolution.
Ole Miss—and any program under investigation—isn’t docking itself anything more or less than what it feels will stick in the eyes of the NCAA, and 11 scholarships over four years is nothing more than a minor speed bump for what has become a recruiting machine in Oxford.
Yes, the school did ask specifically for the Tunsil drama from draft night to be separate from this response and is investigating Tunsil’s request for money from Ole Miss football employees to pay a $305 electric bill.
But as Wright’s spreadsheet notes, Ole Miss either agrees or wants to change Level II to Level III violations for the six allegations related to Tunsil or his stepfather Lindsey Miller that included loaner cars, $2,253 worth of lodging, $800 from a booster and other impermissible benefits. Let’s not forget Ole Miss already suspended and the NCAA already reinstated Tunsil for those.
So if you’re predicting doom for the program based on what’s to come, you think a $305 electric bill is going to bring down a program?
Eleven scholarships over four years is manageable, likely as harsh as it will get and won’t derail Ole Miss’ program.
All it does is put a little more pressure on Freeze and his staff to make sure players they sign pan out and minimize the number of times they swing and miss.
If you think Ole Miss is dirty, that’s fine.
Ole Miss itself admitted that Friday.
If you think this is going to send the program back to the cellar of the SEC West, you’re mistaken.
All the self-imposed penalties do is limit the margin for error.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.
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