NCAA investigations lead to possible sanctions

Posted on Feb 16 2016 - 9:42am by Brian Rippee

There has been a black cloud lingering over the Ole Miss football program the past few months due to an ongoing NCAA investigation.  According to athletic director Ross Bjork, that cloud has dissipated and the investigation is over.

The NCAA sent Ole Miss a letter of allegations, informing them of 28 allegations in the athletic department– ranging from class one infractions, the most serious, to class three infractions, the least serious. Of these 31 rules violations, 13 involved the football program. Nine of these violations involved the current football coaching staff.

Five of the violations pinned on the current coaching staff involve former offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. Tunsil was suspended for seven games during the 2015 season.

Photo by: Taylor Cook

Photo by: Taylor Cook

Four of the violations involve incidents during Houston Nutt’s tenure as head coach. David Saunders, a former assistant of Nutt’s, resigned from an assistant coaching postion at Louisiana-Lafayette in November of 2014 as a result of allegations he helped forge ACT scores of certain prospects. Saunders is heavily linked with these potential violations, which occurred at Ole Miss during the Nutt regime.

Saunders was a coach at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette after his days at Ole Miss. That university was recently docked 11 scholarships over three years, and vacated their 2011 football season.

The remaining four violations are secondary violations that involve Hugh Freeze and the current coaching staff. According to media reports, they include illegal transportation, a video that was made in violation of the NCAA rules, and illegal contact with a coach and a recruit at a school. Ole Miss reported these secondary violations. Secondary violations are not worrisome and hardly ever result in harsh penalties from the NCAA.

Thursday and Friday provided Ole Miss fans with worry, however, as former assistant Chris Vaughn was fired at Texas and Brandond Wenzel, the former on-campus recruiting coordinator, resigned his position. Kyle Campbell, the associate A.D. for media and public relations at Ole Miss, told Parrish Alford, the North East Mississippi Daily Journal Ole Miss beat writer, that Wenzel’s resignation was not related to the NCAA investigation.

While these developments are concerning, it is not anything that will drastically alter the football program. It’s never a good thing to have the NCAA poking around your program, because they might find something they weren’t looking for, but for the most part it appears as if the violations concerning the current coaching staff are relatively minor. I would anticipate this ordeal being over by sometime this summer and that the football program will lose something in the range of 8-10 scholarships over a three year period, unless of course, there are new developments in the case.

For now, at least, the investigation appears the be over and now it is time to wait to see how exactly the NCAA sanctions Ole Miss. Ole Miss has 90 days to respond the notice of allegations.