The long-rumored NCAA charges that have been oft-discussed on message boards and twitter timelines seems to have finally come to fruitition, though the nature and extent remain shrouded. Ole Miss has been served a notice of roughly 30 NCAA violations spanning football, track and women's basketball, according to a Friday afternoon report by Yahoo's Pat Forde.
This likely doesn't have much to do with Hugh Freeze
The immediate reaction by rival fans will be to point at this news as evidence supporting their suspicions of Freeze and his recent recruiting success. However, check this report from SB Nation:
One Ole Miss source tells Steven Godfrey they believe only five of the 32 are alleged football violations, and that coaches are "confident" allegations related to the current staff are secondary violations. In addition, an NCAA source tells Bud Elliott that the "vast majority" of the football allegations are more than two years old.
Why the NCAA allegations aren't about Freeze
Most of the violations levied against Ole Miss come from the Houston Nutt staff, the track team and the women's basketball team. Here's why the NCAA was looking into each one.
A source told The Clarion-Ledger that most of the football violations stem from six years ago, which was Houston Nutt's second year on campus. That these allegations are largely not against Hugh Freeze's staff has been confirmed by Rivals.com's Neal McCready.
It's been no secret that for the better part of three years, the NCAA has been investigating Ole Miss for violations committed by the Nutt regime, track and women's hoops, so it's no surprise that most of the violations are unrelated to the current staff. Forde stated as much in October of 2014 when first reporting the investigation:
Multiple sources told Yahoo Sports the Mississippi football and women's basketball programs are subjects of the investigation. One source with knowledge of the probe said the bulk of the potential violations relate to women's basketball. The source said the current football staff of head coach Hugh Freeze is not believed to be implicated in any major violations, and that much of the football inquiry dates back to actions by a previous Ole Miss staff.
In June of 2015, Ole Miss track and field coach Brian O'Neal suddenly resigned despite historic success during his first three years on the job. In 2012, women's head basketball coach Adrian Wiggins and two assistants were fired after academic and recruiting misconduct were discovered.
I'm told the Ole Miss Notice of Allegations doesn't contain any surprises. Most of it predates Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss knew it was coming.— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) January 29, 2016
The Tunsil and Saunders investigations might weigh in, though
Since then, of course, Laremy Tunsil was investigated and eventually handed a seven-game suspension for a laundry list of violations that included free loaner vehicles and impermissible travel and lodging benefits. Forde's latest report does not indicate whether any of the charges stem from that second investigation.
Most of the new stuff in Ole Miss case centers around Laremy Tunsil/stepfather deal and loaner cars, which resulted in 7-game suspension.— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) January 29, 2016
Also pertinent is the recent NCAA punishment of former Ole Miss assistant David Saunders, who received an eight-year show-cause in mid-January for infractions committed while coaching at Louisiana-Lafayette. Saunders was nailed for helping to rig ACT tests for ULL recruits, but during the course of the investigation it was reportedly discovered that Saunders had committed similar academic violations while employed at Ole Miss.
"As has been the case for the past three years, we are bound by confidentiality and cannot comment publicly on the matter," Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said in a statement. "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."
This is pretty bad timing nonetheless
No matter how this shakes out, it's less than ideal timing for Ole Miss, which is hosting 24 recruits on campus in the final weekend before National Signing Day (though it could also be construed as fortuitous in a way, as the coaches will at least get to explain this to the prospects face-to-face). Don't expect this to have a major effect on Signing Day, but it could be just enough to knock off a few guys who are on the fence.
As for NCAA punishment...
Do I think Ole Miss football will suffer any penalties from this? Minimal, if any.— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) January 29, 2016
So where does this go from here?
Here's Forde on next steps:
According to standard NCAA protocol, Ole Miss and/or other parties charged with violations have 90 days to respond to the allegations. Unless there is agreement on the facts and the case can be resolved by summary disposition, a Committee on Infractions hearing date will be established. The COI generally meets six times a year; it most recently met last week.
If there is a hearing, NCAA enforcement will present its case and the school can present its side. A Committee On Infractions report, detailing any penalties that are to be assessed, generally is issued six to eight weeks after the hearing.