Ole Miss is prepared to appeal seven of the twenty-one NCAA allegations.
The University of Mississippi’s 125-page response to the NCAA Notice of Allegations regarding the Ole Miss football team makes one point certain: The university is sticking with head coach Huge Freeze.
Because of the ongoing investigation and the case before the Mississippi Ethics Commission, third party names were withheld in the response.
The allegations date back to the initial NCAA investigation into Ole Miss sports in 2012. The NCAA investigated the university’s women’s basketball, track and field and football programs. The NCAA concluded its investigation, but reopened the football case after the 2016 NFL Draft Day events involving former offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil.
Tunsil’s twitter account was allegedly hacked and screenshots of text messages between Tunsil and then assistant director for football operations, John Miller, were posted. In this exchange Tunsil asks for money to pay rent and for his mother’s bills. Miller is shown in the exchange saying “See Barney next week” referencing former staffer Barney Farrar. Farrar was placed on administrative leave in November 2016 and was fired one month later.
Farrar is held responsible for several allegations in Ole Miss’s response. The school claims that Farrar committed violations during his recruitment of Student Athlete 39.
Ole Miss states Farrar “hid this misconduct from the University’s compliance staff and his head coach, and used multiple intermediaries in his scheme.”
The university claims Farrar “purposely and actively” worked his way around monitoring systems in place and “disregarded his head coach’s repeated directives.”
In the original Notice of Allegations in January 2016, the football team faced 13 charges and nine of these were expanded or added to in the amended allegations in February 2017.
The 21 total charges the football program and head coach Huge Freeze are now facing involve: lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility, impermissible contact and impermissible recruiting inducement such as free apparel, transportation and lodging, cash and drinks as well as cash payments to recruits.
“Although we agree several violations occurred, we do not agree that credible and persuasive evidence supports all of the allegations in the Notice,” the university said in its response.
The university also believes that Freeze is not responsible for most of the accusations he is facing, most importantly the charges under lack of institutional control.
“The violations are not the product of wholesale, systemic failures; the issues, while significant, are limited to their specific facts … this case does not involve a head coach who facilitated or participated in violations or otherwise ignored red flags associated with them,” the university’s response said.
The university goes further in disputing the charge for lack of institutional control completely.
“The University has robust rules education and compliance monitoring systems, and the University has continuously worked, both before and throughout this investigation to improve and supplement them over time. The University has conveyed high expectations for compliance to its staff, student-athletes, athletics representatives, and fans.”
The university acknowledged some accusations are valid. But others are lacking in evidence and are intended to sabotage the university. Most notably are the accusations surrounding Student Athlete 39, who is mentioned consistently throughout the charges. The university claims his story does not add up.
The university states that former recruit, Student Athlete 39, gave a false testimony about the Rebel football program.
“In critical part, (Student-Athlete 39’s) testimony was either contradicted or not corroborated by his friends and family and, in several instances, refuted by objective facts,” the university said.
One of the more intriguing portions regarding Student Athlete 39 are the allegations surrounding a $10,000 cash payment. Ole Miss says the athlete gave two different versions of what occurred that day. The university states that in one account of the story, said athlete states that a booster “provided him a wad of $100 bills” and in another interview states that the booster “handed him a bag full of money.”
Ole Miss continues by stating that the party claimed to instigate these payments changes in each interview as well, along with the chronology of events regarding the athlete.
The university also makes a point to reference the student requested limited immunity from sanctions upon testimony with the NCAA, and believes that the student’s motive was to discredit the program. A Heath Ledger Joker tweet the student tweeted on the day the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations was received was cited as evidence.
— Patrick Ochs (@PatrickOchs) June 6, 2017
If the more severe allegations prove to be true regarding the program, then the university must add to the already self-imposed bowl ban, scholarship restrictions and restriction in official visits.
The university must address the future of Freeze. The university has shown full support for the coach in its response, but if these allegations are valid the coach’s position and future with the team will be in question.
The NCAA has 58 days to construct its case summary before going before the the Committee on Infractions.