Hours after the NCAA handed down to Ole Miss the final penalties in an investigation in the football program, the fired coach in the middle of it all, Hugh Freeze released a statement. “In the report, the committee disagreed with the institution’s position on most of the contested allegations”.
This has been a long and winding road for Ole Miss, which included former coach Houston Nutt claiming the school defamed him by claiming numerous alleged infractions happened during his tenure.
In addition to the bowl ban, NCAA issued show-causes to several former Ole Miss coaches and administrators including Barney Farrar (five years) and Chris Kiffin (two years). Bjork said the appeal will be launched “right away”.
The additional bowl ban means that players now with the program have the ability to transfer to other FBS institutions without sitting out a year as generally mandated by the NCAA. Thursday, the Ole Miss Spirit published an audio recording of that including Lewis’ mother reportedly admitting that the family received offers from Mississippi State and LSU. Bjork said other schools have already approached the eligible players in efforts to “poach” them, but has not been approached by any players that now desire to transfer. Luke, who played at the school in the mid-90s, was hired as the program’s permanent coach on Monday. The school had self-imposed a loss of 11, but the NCAA added 13 more.
Bjork also said there are “other aspects of the case that we will also appeal, and we will determine the specifics of those matters in the next few days”.
Bjork followed and went after the NCAA enforcement division, calling out the secrecy around the immunity interviews and the changed tenor of the investigation at some point in 2016.
So, what do we make of it all?
Yes, there are major sanctions. At least optically it seems that the institutions who presented a more aggressive front finished with better results. However, this is the first step to returning to normalcy. “We indicated our disagreement in very forceful and strategic aspects of evidence by numerous filings, letters and push-back over the past few years”.
The people who committed violations have been punished, and the school is doing its best to move on. But while it is a sad day for Ole Miss, it is also Day One of recovering and building for the future. Luke had the interim tag removed on Sunday when he was officially named head coach.