Ole Miss has self-imposed a double-digit reduction of scholarships for football, as well as an already served postseason ban for women’s basketball, as part of its response to an NCAA notice of allegations that was released Friday morning.
In its 154-page response to the NCAA, Ole Miss officials said the school “accepted responsibility for the violations that occurred and self‐imposed meaningful penalties.”
The Rebels received a notice of allegations from the NCAA in late January but have released few details of the investigation.
Among the other penalties self-imposed by Ole Miss, according to the report: “The termination of four coaches, including the only two involved head coaches still employed when the violations were discovered; the disassociation of every involved booster; a post‐season ban in women’s basketball; a double‐digit reduction of scholarships in the football program; a significant reduction in off‐campus evaluation days and official and unofficial visits in football and track and field; violation‐specific rules education across all involved sports; and a $159,325.00 financial penalty.”
“In every one of these situations, the University carefully weighed the appropriate range of penalties and erred toward the upper limits,” the report said. The Rebels were accused of 28 NCAA violations, according to the report, including 16 Level I violations, the report said.
“The fact that all but one of the 16 Level I violations arose from intentional misconduct committed by rogue former employees or boosters outside the University’s direct control acting in contravention of rules education provided to them by the University,” the report said. “Although a post‐season ban may be imposed in a Level I — Mitigated case, the University believes a ban is unnecessary here based upon applicable precedent and because the most serious allegations occurred years ago, involving staff and student‐athletes long‐since separated from the University.”
Among the NCAA’s allegations regarding the Ole Miss football program:
• Former assistant coach David Saunders arranged for fraudulent ACT scores for three prospects in the summer of 2010. Saunders and former Ole Miss assistant Chris Vaughn were also accused of unethical conduct related to the testing fraud, and they are accused of providing temporary lodging, meals and entertainment for recruits in June and July 2010. In its response, Ole Miss officials agreed that the testing fraud occurred.
• Vaughn violated the NCAA cooperative principle by communicating with witnesses of an NCAA enforcement investigation, even after being admonished on several occasions to refrain from having such conversations. The NCAA determined his conduct to be a Level I violation.
• Between August 2014 and August 2015, an unnamed booster provided football players with impermissible extra benefits in the form of complimentary vehicle use, which the NCAA determined was a Level I allegation. Additionally, in June 2015, the booster provided a player with an impermissible, interest-free car loan. The NCAA said the monetary value of the extra benefits was approximately $7,495.
• The NCAA alleged Ole Miss officials failed to monitor the activities of the booster, a Level II violation.
• On or around August 22, 2014, an Ole Miss booster provided a football player with $800 cash, a Level 1 violation.
• Between June 7, 2013, and May 27, 2014, an Ole Miss booster provided extra benefits to a football player in the form of free lodging in Oxford, Mississippi, a Level 1 violation. The NCAA said the value of the benefits was approximately $2,253.
• During the 2012-13 academic year, an Ole Miss booster assisted the school in the recruitment of four prospects by engaging in recruiting activities and provided them with recruiting inducements totaling approximately $2,250. The NCAA alleges assistant coach Maurice Harris knew of the booster’s involvement and, at times, facilitated his involvement, a Level 1 violation.
In a letter posted on the university’s website on Friday morning, Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork and chancellor Jeffrey Vitter wrote that the school has requested that its case be delayed in light of allegations made by former Rebels offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil at last month’s NFL draft in Chicago.
Bjork and Vitter wrote that they’ve asked the NCAA that the school not appear in front of the Committee on Infractions this summer so it would have ample time to investigate whether or not Tunsil, a first-round pick by the Miami Dolphins, received improper benefits while playing at Ole Miss.
“On the first day of the 2016 NFL Draft, new information came to light involving a former football student-athlete,” the letter said. “That very night, the University and NCAA began a joint review to determine whether bylaws have been violated, and we hope this review will be concluded soon. To ensure fairness to all parties and pursuant to [Committe of Infractions] procedure, we have asked the COI to remove the hearing from this summer’s docket until this review can be completed and closed.”