Somehow, I don’t think Hugh Freeze will be extending the same gracious invitation to the world today.
In what has to be a first, last night there was some actual real-time drama that took place during an NFL Draft show.
An anonymous hacker used the night of the NFL draft to try to take down Laremy Tunsil and the Ole Miss football program.
Moments before the draft began a video of Tunsil smoking out of a bong fashioned out of a gas mask was posted onto his Twitter account. When it had done its damage, moving Tunsil out of the top 10 entirely and to the Miami Dolphins on No. 13, the hacker started on Tunsil’s Instagram account.
There they posted screenshots of alleged text messages between Tunsil and John Miller, assistant athletic director for football operations, in which Tunsil asks for money to pay rent and also for his mother’s $305 electric and water bill. In reference to the former, Miller makes a reference to “Barney.” Barner (sic) Farrar is Ole Miss’ assistant athletic director for high school and junior colleges.
“I made a mistake,” Tunsil said in a press conference. “That happened.”
Pressed if that meant he had taken money from a coach, Tunsil said, ‘I’d have to say yeah.’
I’d have to say that’s not good. And I’d have to say this sure must have been awkward:
Coach Hugh Freeze was in the green room with Tunsil and fellow NFL first-round picks from Ole Miss, Laquon Treadwell (23rd overall to the Minnesota Vikings) and Robert Nkemdiche (29th overall to the Arizona Cardinals).
Talk about your “Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” moment.
No comment was forthcoming from the usually chatty freeze. As for the school,
Ole Miss released a statement late Thursday night that said it was aware of the reports and, “Like we do whenever an allegation is brought to our attention or a potential violation is self-discovered, we will aggressively investigate and fully cooperate with the NCAA and the SEC.”
A few thoughts on the situation:
- It’s easy to mock Tunsil, I suppose, but as a Georgia fan who suffered through the Green and Gurley debacles, I don’t have the heart to do so, especially in the case of a kid who was by most accounts NFL-ready after his freshman year having to beg for table scraps to keep the water on for his mom. In a fairer world, none of these kids would have ever had a problem with bending NCAA amateurism rules for a few bucks.
- On the other hand, given Freeze’s previous sanctimony on the subject, Ole Miss deserves all the questioning and finger-pointing that is being and will continue to be directed its way.
- What in the world was Jimmy Sexton thinking, letting Tunsil speak to the media last night?
- All of that being said, and even with the NCAA already being in Oxford Town looking over the operation, so to speak, we’re a long way from seeing the hammer drop. First off, while Tunsil said plenty last night, the NCAA can’t compel him to say any more, or provide any other information. He’s in the NFL now, so he’s not touchable. Miller and Ferrar are probably going to be scapegoated and cut loose at the earliest possible time, likely to be painted as rogue actors in this play. That leaves Ross Bjork, the AD, to tap dance around institutional control claims, but to date he’s proved himself to be fairly adept. Certainly he’s no Greg McGarity.
- What’s the over/under on the number of FOIA requests that hit Ole Miss today? And is that higher or lower than the number of times rival coaches use this as an issue with which to hammer Freeze on the recruiting trail?
- Back to Tunsil – if you’re interested in whether he has a claim against the person who hacked his accounts and publicized what he posted, you might want to read this.
- You know who’s relieved about this story dropping last night? Nick Saban, who saw his own bad story – one that should have been a huge one last night and today – buried under Tunsil’s. (Think there’s any chance Sexton suggested the timing? Eh, nah.)
UPDATE: The NFL thinks Ole Miss has a “culture”. Not in a good sense…
The hot rumor as Thursday approached was that the several teams, including the Chargers at No. 3, coveted Notre Dame tackle Ronnie Stanley over Tunsil. Multiple sources told The MMQB that Tunsil’s off-field behavior was becoming increasingly worrisome and reason for some teams to remove him from their draft boards altogether. Much of it had to do with the culture at Mississippi, sources say. The football program was served in January with notice of allegations of a number of NCAA violations. Last season Tunsil was suspended seven games for receiving impermissible benefits, and at the combine in February teammate Robert Nkemdiche said Tunsil had been with him when Nkemdiche fell out a hotel window. Then, two days before the draft, Tunsil’s stepfather filed a lawsuit against him for “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” stemming from a dispute last June. For a player pegged as a potential No. 1 pick, there were enough problems surrounding Tunsil to turn some teams away.
And this is, hands down, the best summary of the surreal evening:
Asked again if there had been an exchange of money, Tunsil then responded matter-of-factly, “I have to say yeah.” A further question about whether he’d met with the NCAA was being posed when Milam appeared from behind a curtain, cutting the session short. “He’s got no more comments. Thank you guys so much,” she said, tapping the offensive lineman on the shoulder, whisking him away and leaving media as baffled as Tunsil apparently had been.
“There’s no way I heard that correctly,” a reporter in the front row said. “There’s no f—ing way that just happened.”
Just a reminder that Jimmy Sexton, who, by the way you shouldn’t forget, represents both Tunsil and Freeze, didn’t exactly have a good night.