On Wednesday afternoon, Ole Miss football announced that it will voluntarily forfeit a bowl in 2017-18 in response to new charges levied by the NCAA. In a second Notice of Allegations, the NCAA charged Hugh Freeze’s program with eight new violations, including paying a recruit up to $15,000 and the dreaded “lack of institutional control.”
Wednesday’s news, which comes some 10 months after Laremy Tunsil’s draft-night fiasco rebooted the NCAA probe, is the latest twist in a winding investigation that reaches all the way back to 2012. What began as an inquiry into the sketchy behavior of a recently-fired women’s basketball coach snowballed into a massive, multi-sport scandal that could slam the progress of Freeze’s football program to a halt—if not end his role in it altogether.
So how the hell did we get to this point? Since this thing’s gotten so out of hand that even we’re having trouble keeping everything straight, we put together a timeline of the NCAA’s four-plus year investigation.
October 2012: Ole Miss fires women’s hoops coach Adrian Wiggins
Just seven months after taking the job, Wiggins is canned for recruiting violations that occurred under his watch. It’s this incident that brings the NCAA to town to begin an investigation that eventually encompasses the football program.
February 2013: Ole Miss signs the No. 5 overall recruiting class
The Rebels pull in their highest-ranked class in football program history, inviting allegations from fans and rival programs that Ole Miss cheated to land Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell, and Laremy Tunsil.
June 2015: Laremy Tunsil is arrested for fighting his stepdad
The investigation really gets going after Tunsil is involved in an altercation with step-father Lindsay Miller. After filing charges (which were eventually dropped), Miller tells police that the fight began because Tunsil was meeting with NFL agents, a violation of NCAA rules. Miller ends up providing a ton of info the NCAA while his stepson sits out over half of his junior season.
January 2016: Ole Miss receives the first Notice of Allegations
The NCAA delivers the official findings of its investigation—which by now spans women’s basketball, track & field and football—to the Ole Miss athletics department. The University is permitted 90 days to respond, which is extended to 120 days after an unnamed third-party requests additional time. For the moment, the investigation is over. But then...
April 2016: Laremy Tunsil suffers his draft-night debacle
Minutes before he’s expected to become the No. 1 pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, Tunsil has his Twitter and Instagram accounts hacked. In addition to tweeting a video that shows Tunsil smoking out of a gas mask bong, the hacker releases screen shots of an alleged text message conversation in which Tunsil requests money from Ole Miss assistant A.D. John Miller. Later that night, in a hastily-arranged press conference, Tunsil appears to confess to taking money from Ole Miss coaches during his collegiate career. In response, Ole Miss and the NCAA re-open their investigation into the football program.
May 2016: Ole Miss responds to the first Notice of Allegations
Ross Bjork and the athletics department make public the NOA received in January, which includes 28 violations across three sports—13 of which are football-related. In an effort to satiate the NCAA before it levies its own punishments, the university self-imposes a one-year postseason ban for the women’s basketball team and a reduction of 11 football scholarships over four years.
August 2016: The NCAA starts interviewing rival players
Reports surface that investigators are speaking with players from rival schools (including Mississippi State), offering them immunity from any potential NCAA violations in exchange for information about their recruitment to Ole Miss. Some of the allegations included in the second NOA almost assuredly come from these interviews.
December 2016: Ole Miss fires Barney Farrar
Farrar, a recruiting assistant who’d been mentioned by name during Laremy Tunsil’s alleged text convo asking for money, is shown the door, suggesting that the investigation has turned up dirt on him.
February 2017: Ole Miss receives and responds to the second NOA
With the NCAA having concluded it’s post-draft hacking followup, Ole Miss announces that a second notice of allegations adds eight new allegations against the Rebel football program, including the damning charge of lack of institutional control. The university releases a video in which Chancellor David Vitter, Athletic Director Ross Bjork, and Head Coach Hugh Freeze announce a self-imposed football bowl ban for the 2017 season while vowing to contest the majority of the new allegations.