Sources have told SB Nation's Steven Godfrey that only five of the 32 NCAA allegations against Ole Miss stem from the football program, with the rest pertaining to the track team and women's hoops. The Clarion-Ledger reports that of the football violations, the majority stem from six years ago, the early years of the Houston Nutt regime. ESPN reports that of the leftover violations associated with the current football staff, most are tied to the Laremy Tunsil investigation, the results of which have been public knowledge for months.
So no, this is not the damning evidence against Hugh Freeze for which the message board masses have been clamoring ever since he landed a top-10 recruiting class in 2013. It's largely the result of an NCAA investigation that likely began more than two months before Nkemdiche, Treadwell and Tunsil inked their paperwork.
In October of 2014, Yahoo's Pat Forde reported that the Ole Miss football and women's hoops teams had been under NCAA investigation for over a year. Here's the key takeaway from Forde's initial findings:
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.
So why did the NCAA start looking into those teams, and why did it result in the bevy of allegations reported on Friday? Let's take a look.
Adrian Wiggins and the women's hoops team
On Oct. 20, 2012, Ole Miss put women's basketball coach Adrian Wiggins on administrative leave and fired two of his assistants. Two days later, Wiggins himself was shown the door.
What made it particularly odd at the time was that it had been just seven months since Wiggins was brought on in what many considered to be a knockout first hire for then-brand new athletic director Ross Bjork. The core of the allegations focused on the two assistants -- a married couple named Kenya and Michael Landers -- who, according to Ole Miss, were canned for "impermissible recruiting contact and academic misconduct." Shortly after the firings, two junior college transfers were declared ineligible and the athletics department self-imposed a one-year postseason ban.
"We learned of possible violations in September and immediately began a vigorous investigation," Bjork said in a statement. "As we discovered troubling facts, we informed the Southeastern Conference and NCAA and began taking steps to remedy the problems. Although there is no current evidence that Coach Wiggins was complicit in or had direct knowledge of this misconduct, as head coach, he is accountable for the actions of those who report to him."
It was at this point that the NCAA began its initial investigation, which eventually expanded to include track and football.
Brian O'Neal and the track team
Two and a half years later, on June 22, 2015, Ole Miss track coach Brian O'Neal abruptly resigned. Again, this was damn strange: O'Neal had achieved historic success during his first three years at the helm. Here's what our Jim Lohmar, who ran for Rebel cross country in the mid-2000s, had to say at the time:
O'Neal devoted historic energies to developing the Rebs' distance program, which... won its Southeastern Regional meet last fall and in so doing earned its first ever automatic bid to the NCAA Cross Country Championships. O'Neal also coached a record-setting 10 men and seven women to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, after (another) record-setting nine Rebels earned All-America honors on the rubber.
Not much was ever revealed about the circumstances of O'Neal's resignation. He just slipped away, leaving nothing but this mysterious statement:
I am announcing today my resignation from Ole Miss as its head track coach ... I do so with a heavy heart, but I believe this action to be in the best interests of the university and my own interests.
David Saunders and the football team
Back to those allegations against the Houston Nutt regime: there's been no confirmation of the specifics, but they likely have something to do with a guy named David Saunders.
In December 2013, roughly a year after the basketball allegations sparked the investigation in Oxford, NCAA enforcement folks contacted Louisiana-Lafayette about Saunders, its recruiting coordinator at the time. The NCAA had learned that Saunders violated recruiting rules while serving as an Ole Miss assistant under Houston Nutt in 2010 and suspected him of doing the same at ULL. By 2014, Saunders had been fired amidst allegations of rigging ACT results for six recruits and paying another roughly $6,000 in cash while employed by the Ragin Cajuns. Earlier this month, the NCAA slammed him and the university with significant punishments.
Whatever the NCAA suspected Saunders of doing while on Nutt's staff in 2010 is probably tied into the current allegations.
Oh and before you go bashing Nutt, consider this:
In defense of Houston Nutt (how often do I say that?), he did not want to hire David Saunders. He fought hard against it.— Neal McCready (@NealMcCready) January 29, 2016