With Ole Miss’ highly anticipated hearing with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions taking place this week in Covington, Kentucky, it is important to look back on the allegations that will be the focus of the panel’s decision-making.
The Rebels currently have 21 NCAA allegations levied against them, 15 of which are classified as Level I infractions, the most serious a program can have. Despite the university self-imposing a bowl ban for the 2017 season, the NCAA’s ruling could very well include an even harsher, longer lasting punishment.
Here’s a quick run-through of the most important Level I allegations that Ole Miss will be tasked with fighting this week:
- ACT/Academic fraud
One of the several allegations focused on former assistants Chris Vaughn and David Saunders, this particular one alleges that Vaughn and Saunders helped recruits pass the ACT by instructing them to take the test at a particular high school and to leave any questionable answers blank. The allegation continues that someone then went back and filled in the blank answers, allowing eligibility to at least four players.
- Impermissible recruiting activities and $2,250 in inducements
This is another allegation involving an assistant coach. This time, it’s current tight ends coach Maurice Harris. The university admits booster Walter Hughes gave a number of recruits what amounted to $2,250 in recruiting benefits. This included lodging, transportation and food.
Harris’ participation stems from the NCAA’s allegation that he helped in facilitating $485 of the total amount and generally knew about Hughes’ impermissible activities.
- Boosters gave up to $15,600 to recruit, coordination with staff member
This is one of the most serious allegations Ole Miss is facing, if only for the dollar amount associated with it. In this allegation, the NCAA posits former Rebel staffer Barney Farrar helped a number of boosters pay between $13,000 and $15,600 in cash to a recruit who did not even end up signing with Ole Miss.
While Ole Miss has admitted its knowledge of the boosters’ relationships with the recruit, the university maintains it did not know of the existence of any such monetary transactions.
- Lack of institutional control/failure to monitor
This is probably the most dreaded allegation a program can receive, and it all but sums up the penalizations that Ole Miss will try to avoid this week. Ole Miss is hotly contesting this allegation, which asserts the administration essentially turned a blind eye to the rampant breaking of NCAA rules and regulations.
The punishments that can result from this allegation alone can be devastating to a program, in (extremely) rare enough cases even eliciting the infamous “death penalty,” a yearlong or longer ban on all activities related to the sport in question.
While the “death penalty” represents a worst-case nightmare for Rebel fans, the reality is that Ole Miss will likely be forced to deal with a range of penalties lasting indeterminate lengths of time. With so many allegations to cover, including some of the most eye-catching covered here, the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions hearing will surely be a defining moment in the next few years of Ole Miss football. No immediate decision will be made, and no immediate punishments will be announced, but the end of this week should bring a better understanding of what’s to come.