Ole Miss releases response after NCAA Committee on Infractions rejects sanctions appeal

Posted on May 3 2018 - 5:55am by Ben Miller

Last week, the University of Mississippi received the NCAA Committee on Infractions’ (COI) response to its sanctions appeal. After some deliberation among university officials, that response was released Wednesday afternoon along with a list of actions Ole Miss plans to take in its second appeal.

The official response from the COI is essentially a rejection on all fronts of the appeal. The release states that every argument made by Ole Miss in its appeal is flawed and invalid.

“In challenging the two violations and the scope of the two penalties, Mississippi ignores and attempts to second guess legislated standards. Its arguments fail,” states the COI’s response.

The university’s rebuttal takes a firm stance of opposition to the COI’s rejection of this initial appeal. Its table of contents includes section titles such as “The COI Provides No Explanation Why A Two-Year Postseason Ban Is Appropriate Where The Penalty Is Otherwise Contrary To Precedent,” and “The COI Conflates The Existence Of Violations With A Culture of Noncompliance, Unfairly Penalizing The University Twice.”

“The COI abused its discretion, departed from precedent, committed procedural errors, and reached factual conclusions clearly contrary to the evidence,” the Ole Miss response’s conclusion reads.

Ross Bjork looks to the side of the room as he explains the grievances he has with the NCAA and the COI ruling. The NCAA accepted all sanctions Ole Miss imposed on itself and added an additional bowl game ban. File photo by Billy Schuerman

This Ole Miss appeal in question was made in opposition to the 2018 postseason ban, recruiting penalties and the forced dissociation of booster Rebel Rags’ that came out of the NCAA charge for lack of institutional control. The COI’s response to Ole Miss was originally supposed to be turned in within 30 days of its notice of the school’s appeal. However, when the committee was not ready in March, it was granted an additional 30-day extension.

Wednesday’s release served as Ole Miss’ official announcement that it has filed a response to the COI’s rejection of the appeal. The basis of the university’s rebuttal is that the COI abused its discretion in the official response.

“In fact, the COI simply and dogmatically declares that the penalty is appropriate because the COI says so,” states the Ole Miss response. “The COI’s failure to explain why it decided to impose an additional postseason ban year establishes that the COI abused its discretion.”

The university is claiming that the COI’s use of evidence from infractions cases dating back to 1986 and 1994 is insufficient in proving an “out-of-control culture that has existed for decades” within the Ole Miss program.

Ole Miss is claiming that the COI failed to point to any other cases where “decades-old infractions decisions have been used against an institution.”

“Under this standard, every NCAA member, once sanctioned, would be subject to enhanced penalties forever,” the Ole Miss response reads. “In the face of the University’s initial submission, the COI’s only response is to ignore the overwhelming amount of precedent that runs counter to its conduct in this case. The COI’s silence speaks volumes.”

Now that Ole Miss has responded to the COI and announced the four points it seeks to appeal (the additional postseason ban, limitations on campus visits and two factual findings), the process’s timeline becomes more transparent.

In contrast to the 30 days the COI was given at the start of the appeals process, the committee will have only 10 days from the time it received Ole Miss’ response to respond again in writing. Ole Miss will then have to attend another hearing in front of the Infractions Appeals Committee.

The COI decision can be found here,  and the rebuttal from Ole Miss can be found here.