Busy day in Oxford, as Yahoo!’s Pat Forde reports that Ole Miss gave into players and family members that were pressuring athletics higher-ups into relaxing their transfer restrictions for the upcoming year, following the NCAA Committee on Infractions’ release of their sanctions on Rebel football.
Forde, who moonlights as the PR spokesman for Houston Nutt’s attorney Thomas Mars, reports that pressure mounted from players dissatisfied with Ole Miss’ stringent transfer policy in the wake of learning that they would not be allowed to play in a bowl game in 2018. From Forde’s report:
Faced with more negative headlines in a year full of them, the athletic department had an abrupt change of policy. After receiving a Yahoo Sports request for comment on the situation shortly after noon ET, the school released a statement at 1:20 p.m. saying that it is removing transfer restrictions.
A nice humble-brag here to demonstrate the power of Yahoo! media requests for comment. Does it get better? Yes, it gets much better. Backup linebacker Jarrion Street has reportedly asked for a transfer waiver, and his family retained the services of one Thomas Mars to represent them had the university fought his efforts to do so. Here’s Forde again:
“Right now I feel like my son has nowhere to go, and this is awful,” Marion Street said. “If Ole Miss had just been honest with us — but to just outright say there is nothing wrong [during the NCAA investigation]? Could you imagine if this is your child?”
This will become a common refrain in the coming weeks and months as news of this or that transfer seeps out of Oxford, and it does hold considerable merit. Van Jefferson, who will be playing his senior season next year, has also voiced a desire to get out of Oxford, and he too enlisted Mars to run covering fire for those efforts. Here’s
Mars Forde again (emphasis added):
Faced with trying to fight Ole Miss, the Jeffersons, Streets and others seeking to transfer did the smart thing — they retained the services of attorney Thomas Mars. His bloody civil battle with the school on behalf of former coach Houston Nutt became a major facet of this traumatic year for Mississippi, and he was eager to take up the cause of the Rebels seeking to play elsewhere.
On Monday, Mars took up the fight by emailing the school’s legal counsel. On Tuesday morning, the families were speaking out to Yahoo Sports. On Tuesday afternoon, Ole Miss was setting the players free.
“Let’s put these kids’ future first,” Mars said, “instead of treating them like they’re furniture that belongs to the University of Mississippi.”
Apropos of nothing, here’s a tweet
It must suck to be Pat Forde, what with Tom Mars' hand jammed up your ass and operating your mouth.— Red Cup Cooperation (@RedCupRebellion) December 5, 2017
In the case of Jefferson, the relaxed restrictions will allow him to open his recruitment to a program like, say, LSU, which was previously off-limits because they’re an SEC member institution and Ole Miss plays the Tigers next season. With the exception of Shea Patterson — and even then, there’s really not reason for despair there — virtually none of these transfers are crippling to the program, and to be sure, they open up scholarships at a time when Ole Miss is desperately in need of scholarships. So, push?
Interestingly, Ole Miss is now working to gain one more year of eligibility for Jordan Ta’amu.
Shea Patterson’s backup, who has delightfully dubbed himself the “Throwin’ Samoan,” looked good while filling in for the injured starter this season, throwing for 1,682 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushing for another four. Because of that performance, it appears that Ole Miss is to extend Ta’amu’s eligibility in Oxford in the event that Patterson leaves, as reported by The Ole Miss Spirit’s Ben Garrett.
The swiftness of this news over and against the news that Shea had signed an agreement allowing him to speak with other programs would seemingly argue in two directions. The worst case scenario is that he’s already expressed a desire to bolt and Ole Miss is trying to lock down an already impressive quarterback to mitigate any performance falloff that would occur in Shea’s absence.
The second possibility is that of futures speculation. Perhaps Shea hasn’t voiced his desire to transfer out, but that he may at some point in the next few months. It’s prudent to ensure possibly two more years from a guy who’s proven himself capable and then some. Keep Ta’amu in the fold, and if Shea does go, hand Jordan the keys full time with a seamless transition besides.
Ta’amu “played” two years in the JUCO ranks before coming to Ole Miss, and next season will be his last of NCAA eligibility. In his first season at New Mexico Military, he played in just one game and injured his knee. It’s that season that Ole Miss is trying to get back for him under the banner of a medical redshirt, and if they do, he’ll have two more years left to helm the Rebel offense. That would be very good.
Not to be outdone, Jim Harbaugh parked a Michigan private jet at the airport in Oxford and may have met with current Ole Miss players.
Chase Parham tweeted this out on Tuesday morning:
This should make the Internet fun for a minute pic.twitter.com/YmCdTMnQm5— Chase Parham (@RivalsChase) December 5, 2017
Then Deontay Anderson snapped an apparent picture of Harbaugh in the flesh.
Is Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh in Oxford, MS? Deontay Anderson, who recently retained the services of Thomas Mars requesting a transfer from Ole Miss, posted this picture this morning. pic.twitter.com/MFZ3wbtem6— Brad Logan (@BradLoganCOTE) December 5, 2017
Then Ole Miss center Robert Conyers tweeted an extremely sick burn.
Michigan needs third string safety’s too https://t.co/EKobPBqt1X— Robert Conyers (@Rconyers75) December 5, 2017
All of this happened in the space of two hours on either side of your lunch break, and it made college football Twitter a very hilarious place to be. We even showed up in USA Today! Some of you did too! Anyway, here was Whiskey Wednesday’s droll assertion on Harbaugh’s sudden presence in Oxford.
Actually, it's very cool and good that Ole Miss got in trouble for loaner cars but a multi-millionaire can fly a private jet into Oxford to recruit players away from the team. Very cool. Very good. https://t.co/YS4mD9r79b— Red Cup Cooperation (@RedCupRebellion) December 5, 2017
So here we are. Open season on Ole Miss’ roster. A virtual free-agent society among the ranks of Rebel football, and all of the NCAA’s own doing. They closed the door on one crisis and opened up 50 or so others. Well done, all around. Any questions?