The NCAA violations against Ole Miss may be far more serious than the school let on.
Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde was the first to report late last month that the NCAA has formally charged the school with rules violations across multiple sports. And now the Associated Press is reporting that of the 28 violations levied against the school, 13 involve the football program. On top of that, the AP’s report says nine of those violations “occurred during current coach Hugh Freeze’s tenure,” some of which are Level I violations – the most serious.
Mississippi’s football program was cited by the NCAA in nearly half of the 28 rules violations levied against the school in the Notice of Allegations the university recently received, said a person with knowledge of the investigation.
The person said Tuesday that 13 allegations involve the football program, and nine of those occurred during current coach Hugh Freeze’s tenure. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
The violations are a mix of Level I — which the NCAA considers most serious — and Level II and III. Many have already been self-reported by the school. The school’s women’s basketball and track and field programs are also involved in the investigation.
A day after news emerged that Ole Miss had received its Notice of Allegations from the NCAA, Rebels athletic director Ross Bjork said in a statement that “many” of the football-related allegations pre-date the Freeze staff. He also said that other violations relate to the Laremy Tunsil situation. Tunsil, an All-American offensive tackle for the Rebels, was held out for six games this season as the NCAA investigated him.
After the NCAA determined Tunsil received impermissible benefits, he was suspended for an additional game and was allowed to return to the field on Oct. 24. Tunsil has since declared for the NFL draft and is expected to be a first round pick.
Several other reports were similar to Bjork’s sentiments: most violations involved other sports while many of the football violations stemmed from Houston Nutt’s tenure as head coach (2008 to 2011). Freeze became head coach in December 2011.
The AP report indicates some violations could stem from former assistant David Saunders, who was also a subject of a different NCAA investigation at Louisiana-Lafayette.
A separate NCAA probe from last year involving Louisiana-Lafayette — and former football assistant David Saunders — also involved Ole Miss. Saunders worked at Ole Miss in 2010 under Nutt. Freeze became the Ole Miss head coach in December 2011.
Documents from the Louisiana-Lafayette case stated that Ole Miss legal counsel and NCAA enforcement staff interviewed Saunders in 2013.
Saunders was given an eight-year show-cause in the Louisiana-Lafayette case after the NCAA ruled he made an effort to arrange fraudulent college entrance exam scores for recruits. Louisiana-Lafayette did not receive a postseason ban in its case, but was put on probation for two years and lost 11 scholarships over three seasons.
Other self-reported violations, which were released by Ole Miss, include “a representative of athletics interests” providing transportation for recruits “on six different occasions from 2011 to ’14” and an assistant making “improper contact with a recruit at a high school.”
Ole Miss has 90 days to respond to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations.
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