A freight train that’s been picking up steam for more than four years finally derailed and sputtered to a crashing halt Tuesday afternoon. Ole Miss announced that it has received and amended notice of allegations from the original notice it got in January 2016. Eight new violations were added to the 13 in the original letter, and the NCAA broadened its scope by charging the program with a lack of institutional control, bringing an end to a train wreck that’s been forecasted to happen for a good while now, though no one could quite pinpoint where or when.
The allegations chronicled thousands of dollars given to prospects along with meals and other benefits. Ole Miss’ reputation was already marred, and this news all but shatters it. The allegations are bad. The self-imposed bowl ban for 2017 is bad and should have happened sooner. Forfeiting $7.8 million worth of SEC postseason revenue is bad. The national perception of this program was already bad and is now worse.
The train reached full speed in April 2016 the night of the NFL Draft, a night that was supposed to be historic for a program that had finally reached national relevancy. But instead the evening gave the NCAA an open invitation to dig into a program whose success seemed fishy at best. Oddly enough, none of the Laremy Tunsil draft night fiasco was listed in the amended NOA, and none of the new allegations have his name anywhere in sight.
But make no mistake about it–this is where the train reached a speed outside of its control. The cloud over the program became even darker, and the beating it took from the national media became even more violent.
In late May, the school tried to slow it down. The conductors applied the emergency breaks by responding to the initial wave of allegations while downplaying their severity and trying repairing its battered image.
But it was already moving too fast. Down the tracks went the train over the next eight months, as the rumors swirled and the control of the cars lessened.
Now, Ole Miss is sifting through the wreckage it knew was coming but didn’t know how much of it there would be. There’s a lot. Seven new level one violations represent a fire with a lot of heat.
In the response Tuesday, athletic directior Ross Bjork outlined which violations the school would dispute and which ones it agreed with. It will attempt to scour the wreckage for survivors and put out as many of the small fires as it can. The school may succeed to an extent in doing this–and it should be noted that Ole Miss will still have its day in court (a hearing with the committee on infractions) to defend itself–but the train is largely totaled and probably won’t be placed back on the tracks again.
The school is now fully aware of how serious the wreckage is; imposing a bowl ban is proof of that.
The NCAA will continue to try to amplify the flames by prosecuting the program to the fullest extent. If all of the allegations hold true, coaches will be fired and further sanctions will follow.
This was a wreck that was easily forecasted. But what wasn’t clear until today was the extent of the damage, which we now know is pretty severe.