The final punch in the NCAA’s nearly six-year long case against Ole Miss has landed, effectively ending the Ole Miss-NCAA saga.
On Monday evening, Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork released a letter dated Dec. 7, 2018, that highlights which games from the 2010-16 seasons will be vacated from the school’s record books.
“We’re still frustrated with the final outcome,” Bjork said on the Oxford Exxon podcast Tuesday. “I think it just gives people clarity and the ability, frankly, to just move on to a new day.”
The university, in conjunction with the NCAA media coordination and statistics staff and the Southeastern Conference, collaborated to decide which games should be vacated due to participation by ineligible players.
The letter showed that 33 wins over a six-year period will be vacated. Former head coaches Houston Nutt and Hugh Freeze both coached Ole Miss during those six years, although the majority of vacated wins came with Freeze at the helm.
Freeze’s coaching record at Ole Miss prior to Monday’s announcement was a respectable 39-25 (19-21). Now, after having 27 wins vacated, his record has dropped to 12-25 (6-21). Despite this, the 2015 season that ended with a 10-3 record and a Sugar Bowl victory over Oklahoma State remains intact due to Laremy Tunsil sitting out the first seven games before being ruled eligible that season.
Bjork spoke at a town hall meeting in Cleveland, Mississippi, on Monday evening, the first of seven such town halls scheduled around the state for the month of February. Meetings are set for Jackson, Oxford, Tupelo, Gulfport and Memphis with the goal of increasing the Athletics Department’s transparency with the fan base.
“The Sugar Bowl trophy is, and will remain, in the Manning Center,” Bjork said during the town hall meeting.
Other notable games that had to be vacated include the win over Alabama in 2014, Egg Bowl wins over Mississippi State in 2012 and 2014 and a win against LSU in 2013.
Nutt’s record wasn’t affected nearly as badly as Freeze’s was by the vacation. In the two years in question, 2010 and 2011, Nutt compiled just six wins, which were all vacated. This equates to a 0-18 (0-15) record in his final two seasons in Oxford.
“It’s the last part of this process,” Bjork said at the town hall in Cleveland. “In a way, it’s just a piece of paper because you saw those games.”
The vacated wins announcement on Monday coincides with the NCAA’s decision to hand Missouri a one-year postseason ban in football, baseball and softball. The ban was widely criticized for being too harsh for a university that cooperated with the NCAA.
“The whole enforcement model, as I think has shown, is really a broken model,” Bjork said on Oxford Exxon. “It’s antiquated.”
Bjork’s sentiments about the NCAA’s flawed system for the punishment of infractions come less than two years after the NCAA’s decision not to punish UNC for academic violations — a case in which UNC did not cooperate with the NCAA in.
“The expectation of membership in all my career in college athletics is that if you have something bad that happens on your campus, you deal with it, you take responsibility, you work with the NCAA, you self-impose and then you’re allowed to move on,” Bjork said.
Now that Ole Miss is seemingly out of the NCAA weeds, the university will focus on reattaining the national pedigree its football program enjoyed enjoyed prior to the NCAA investigation.
“You have to be consistent,” Bjork said. “You have to be consistently good at what we do, which means we need to win football games.”
The full list of vacated games is as follows:
2010 — Tulane, Fresno State, Kentucky and UL-Lafayette
2011 — Southern Illinois and Fresno State
2012 — Central Arkansas, UT El Paso, Tulane, Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Pittsburgh (BBVA Compass Bowl)
2013 — Vanderbilt, Southeast Missouri, Texas, LSU, Idaho, Arkansas and Troy
2014 — Boise State, Vanderbilt, UL-Lafayette, Memphis, Alabama, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Mississippi State
2016 — Wofford, Georgia, Memphis, Georgia Southern and Texas A&M