The NCAA notified Ole Miss in January of 13 compliance allegations against its football program, and Ole Miss finally released its response (and those allegations themselves) on Friday, four months later. There’s a lot to go over.
Some of what the NCAA alleges against Ole Miss is fairly serious, and not just in the bubble of collegiate athletic justice. On the other hand, some of it is not.
What follows is a ranking of each of the NCAA’s 13 charges against Ole Miss — not by their NCAA-defined infraction level, but by zest.
To emphasize, all are merely allegations at this point, even though Ole Miss has acknowledged that some of them are true.
Ole Miss also hit itself with some self-sanctions, including a loss of 10 more scholarship years (roughly three over each of the next three seasons) and recruiting suspensions for two assistants. Also, the NCAA already suspended former star left tackle Laremy Tunsil seven games last season for these allegations related to him.
1. Two former Ole Miss assistants helped fix recruits’ ACT scores.
By any measure, this is the top of the ticket.
The NCAA says previous coaching staff assistants Chris Vaughn and David Saunders instructed recruits to take the ACT college entry exam at a specific high school in Wayne County, Miss., in June 2010.
As they were taking their tests, Vaughn and Saunders instructed the recruits to leave blank any answer space for a question they weren’t confident about answering correctly, the NCAA says. This would, in turn, allow the correct answers to be filled in later, giving these players higher scores — presumably so they’d qualify to play at Ole Miss.
As a result, the NCAA says three Ole Miss players competed while they weren’t really eligible during the 2011 season, and one of those players continued to play while ineligible for three more seasons, through 2014.
Ole Miss agreed in its response that the testing fraud happened, though the school was light on details of what exactly went down. Ole Miss says there’s no evidence that anybody at the school with the exception of the two former assistants was involved.
2. Some Ole Miss booster gave a family member $800 in cash in August 2014.
The juice of this allegation depends mostly on the means of financial transfer. Was the alleged payment delivered in a duffel bag? A wad of cash? A wire transfer? Venmo?
Ole Miss has responded affirmatively, that a booster met the family member in Oxford’s airport and handed him $800. Airports are somewhat clandestine.
This family member is referred to throughout the NCAA’s allegations and Ole Miss’ response to them as “Family Member 1.” Based on everything we’ve known for months, this appears to be Tunsil’s stepfather, and Tunsil appears to be listed as “Student-Athlete 1.” He personally told the NCAA about much of this.
3. A trio of Ole Miss assistants cheated in recruiting six players in 2010.
The allegations here focus mostly on Vaughn and Saunders, but also on current assistant Derrick Nix. (Ole Miss agrees Vaughn and Saunders were involved in them but says the NCAA has overstated Nix’s involvement.) In total, the NCAA says $1,750 in impermissible benefits reached six recruits.
The aim of the help, according to the NCAA, was to help the recruits with transportation to a summer class that would aid their eligibility status with Ole Miss. (Meals were also involved.)
Ole Miss is in trouble for helping prospective student-athletes get to class.
4. Players got a lot of help with car loans.
All under one allegation, the NCAA outlines four automobile-related charges against Ole Miss, all occurring between 2014 and 2015. They’re all fairly boring, relating to plumb loan deals players got on cars.
Three of the four are against Student-Athlete 1, Tunsil. There’s one other car allegation against a non-Tunsil player.
The NCAA estimates the car arrangements resulted in $7,495 of impermissible benefits altogether. Ole Miss agrees this happened.
5. Ole Miss made personalized hype videos for recruits.
The NCAA claims head coach Hugh Freeze, in 2013, directed an Ole Miss video staffer to take pictures of recruits in the Rebels’ indoor practice facility, wearing official team apparel, and then had the pictures incorporated into “commercial-style” videos to be played for the recruits and their families while they were on visits.
6. Assistant coach Maurice Harris helped link recruits with a booster who was giving them impermissible benefits.
The NCAA alleges — and Ole Miss accepts — that a booster whom also volunteered at a local high school gave several recruits what amounted to $2,250 worth of “recruiting inducements,” including lodging, transportation and meals.
Maurice Harris, still an Ole Miss assistant, facilitated $485 out of that total and knew of the booster’s relationship with Ole Miss prospects, the NCAA estimates.
7. Ole Miss put up a player’s family members in hotels and various rental properties without getting payments.
Ole Miss admits to $2,253 of extra benefits having gone out to a player’s family (and an associated boyfriend) in the form of free lodging around Oxford.
8. Ole Miss “failed to monitor” the business that had been loaning out the cars to players.
Ole Miss agrees that the loaner cars went out improperly, but it denies that it negligently failed to keep track of what was happening.
The University and the enforcement staff agree on the facts at the heart of both questions, but the University does not agree that these underlying facts constitute a violation of NCAA legislation and therefore denies Allegation No. 2.
This will be a potential fight to keep tabs on moving forward.
9. Ole Miss assistant Chris Kiffin let some player sleep on his couch without demanding $33 in payment for his services.
We’ve got a real bombshell here.
It is alleged that in the summer of 2013, Chris Kiffin, assistant football coach, provided [an unnamed player] with two nights’ lodging at his residence. The monetary value of the extra benefit was approximately $33.
There are a lot of questions around this. Did the player sleep in a bed? On a couch? On an air mattress? Was there a TV in the room? If so, how many inches was it?
It’s fascinating that the NCAA devoted real man hours to figuring out the per-night value of a stay in an assistant football coach’s home.
Ole Miss agrees this happened.
10. Kiffin talked to two high school players in an office when he wasn’t allowed.
Ole Miss agrees that Kiffin spent 10 minutes speaking privately with two players about their recruitment in a high school office room in the spring of 2014.
Neither player actually committed to Ole Miss, and Kiffin was banned from doing off-campus recruiting for 30 days, which actually sounds kind of like a reward.
11. Kiffin had Ole Miss give recruiting benefits to a man who wasn’t a player’s “real” father, but instead was just a “father figure.”
NCAA rules permit schools to pay for things when recruits take one of their five “official” visits to a campus, and those benefits extend to their legal guardians.
One recruit came to Ole Miss with a man whom Kiffin viewed as the player’s “real” father, but was not his biological father. Kiffin “failed to make the distinction clear,” Ole Miss says, and so the man and his wife received impermissible benefits in the form of meals and lodging, under the assumption he actually shared DNA with the recruit.
The NCAA calls this a Level II violation, but Ole Miss wants it to be Level III, the lowest level, and cites precedent to that effect.
12 and 13. The NCAA says Vaughn and Saunders, once they were already gone from Ole Miss, lied to investigators and weren’t fully cooperative.
Two allegations are lumped into one here.
Both Vaughn and Saunders deny they were involved in the fixing of ACT scores, and the NCAA claims it has evidence that illustrates they’re not telling the truth. The NCAA also says Vaughn had inappropriate contact with its enforcement investigators in 2013.
Ole Miss isn’t taking any position, because both men were out of the program by the time the actions in question may or may not have occurred .