“We’re going to find out about the whole head coach control thing.”

The most interesting thing at this point about the NCAA investigation of Ole Miss is how most of the world, including me, has gone from thinking that Bjork, Freeze and Company would probably skate around any serious repercussions to the sudden realization that it’s likely a serious hammer is about to drop on the football program and the school’s athletic department.

How serious?  That’s the question.  The allegations are so numerous and significant that nobody has a real baseline of comparison from which to evaluate.

No one SI spoke to for this story downplayed the 15 Level I violations. A former committee member, who asked to remain anonymous, has seriously tracked NCAA cases for more than 15 years and couldn’t recall a case with that many. (Violations used to be classified as major and secondary, which makes comparisons imperfect. Now they are broken up from Level I to Level IV. Level I is the most serious). “In terms of sheer numbers, I can’t recall anything that matches this,” the former committee member said. “I just don’t recall anything that’s more serious.”

That’s almost a little scary, if you’re the school.

The other factor that puts the whole episode into uncharted territory is that the NCAA’s enforcement framework was radically changed a few years ago.  Ole Miss is the first school to be evaluated in the new context.

… In 2013, the NCAA introduced a new penalty matrix. (It did so with the not-so-subtle headline of, “Violator Beware.”) The idea was to make penalties more consistent, something like federal sentencing guidelines. (If you commit armed robbery, there’s a minimum prison sentence. If you commit a Level I NCAA violation, there’s a consistent punishment).

It’s not that simple, though, as the allegations the Committee finds valid will get classified as aggravated, standard or mitigated. And that nuance ultimately determines the punishment, which leaves a lot of room for variables. Not all of the alleged violations occurred after 2013, so the entire case may not even flow through the matrix.

A handful of cases have gone through the new matrix, but all the people interviewed this week didn’t feel comfortable using those cases to predict what could happen at Ole Miss. “The matrix is kind of baffling, and I understand penalties better than most people,” said the former committee member who asked to remain anonymous. “We have seen a few cases all the way through. We don’t have enough of a body of case law to make any statements or accurate predictions.”

Take a peek at the chart. It’s easy to see how with 15 Level I violations, fans of SEC rivals could project years and years of postseason bans. Alternatively, Rebels supporters could be optimistic about mitigating many of the charges and receiving little more punishment. No one really knows.

The only safe assumption is that this matrix, which the NCAA unveiled in 2013, is about to have its first heavy dose of public scrutiny. “Even with a matrix, you have undecided major issues that have yet to be litigated and decided,” Marsh said. “You still have human beings involved [in the Committee on Infractions].”

Gee, kinda like a playoff selection committee, just with sanctions.

There are only two things for certain at this point.  One is that the bleeding is going to continue for a while.

The only consistent thing about NCAA cases is that they unfold slowly. Ole Miss obviously wants this to end as quickly as possible. The school tried to spin the news this week as the end of the investigation.

The reality here is that the hearing before the Committee on Infractions won’t likely happen until the fall. Then there’s an appeals process. And considering the severity of the charges and how much Ole Miss is contesting, it’s hard to imagine things not being appealed. “This is going to be resolved in 2018 if it goes the distance,” Thomas said. “We’re looking at 2018. It’s a matter of when.”

At least we know where Hugh Freeze will be for the next couple of seasons.  And that leads to the second thing we know — Freeze may or may not be a dead man walking, but if he’s not left severely crippled by the investigation, that’s gonna leave another mark on the credibility of the NCAA’s enforcement arm.  There’s too much expected at this point for a light slap on the wrist to mollify those who expect a message to be sent.

… It’s safe to say that Freeze is fighting for his career. At the least, he faces a potential suspension, much like the ones served by Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, UConn’s Jim Calhoun and SMU’s Larry Brown. “This is an interesting test case under the new rules,” Thomas said. “Football has the most scholarships and the most staff. It does raise the question at some point of how close are we going to hold the head football coach to things that happened down the chain.”

The entire college coaching fraternity viewed Ole Miss’s anomalous recruiting success with skepticism. And there’s a strong curiosity in the coaching world of how the NCAA will handle Freeze. “If it’s a willful and intentional violation of rules, he should not be allowed to coach, “ said a Power 5 coach. “The rule says that coaches can’t coach [when NCAA issues occur]. We’re going to find out about the whole head coach control thing.”

If Freeze survives the NCAA process and potential suspension, he still has to win games at a watered-down program. Ole Miss went 5–7 last year and then lured a recruiting class so poor that Freeze labeled it “a penalty to be under the cloud we’re under.” It’s hard to imagine Freeze surviving the fickle NCAA process and the inevitable dip that Ole Miss is expected to take on the field.

Again, it’s amazing to think about the level of self-confidence Bjork and Freeze projected at the beginning of this process, that they continued to show even after the PR disaster of Laremy Tunsil’s draft night.  In retrospect, that looks like nothing more than a bad case of bravado.  The check for that nice dinner, it seems, is about to be presented.

As a Georgia fan, it’s not so much that I have anything personal against Ole Miss.  I don’t take any pleasure out of what may be coming for the fans of the program or the players, like the incoming class, who are going to pay the price for the indiscretions of others.  It’s just that I’d like to see the NCAA, for once, properly go after a program for its wrongdoing (if that’s what’s gone down, of course) in the absence of taking the Georgia Way approach of self-debasement.  There’s a message I’d approve.

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27 Comments

Filed under Freeze!, The NCAA

27 responses to ““We’re going to find out about the whole head coach control thing.”

  1. 3rdandGrantham

    If Ole Miss were smart, they would fire Freeze immediately to show they are serious about NCAA compliance from this point forward. Not only would they not owe Freeze a single dime in terms of his contract payoff (given he would be fired for cause), but again it would help to greatly reduce the penalties that are certainly headed their way.

    Let’s face it, Ole Miss football is going to be a total dumpster fire for the next 5-6 years, perhaps more, regardless of who is coach, and Freeze’s reputation has been permanently damaged as a result of this as well. Thus, the fact that the Ole Miss brass is digging their heels in with Freeze makes very little sense to me. That is, unless this was a well orchestrated effort between Ole Miss and Freeze regarding their various schemes, in which they afraid of Freeze speaking out against them in retribution if they indeed fire him. That’s pretty much the only explanation I can come up with regarding Ole Miss’ total support of Freeze throughout this mess.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gaskilldawg

      That is the best explanation I can think of for why it did not fire Freeze. Freeze has zero SEC West championships to show football for the cheating, even when having a two game lead over Alabam twice.

      I suspect Freeze knows how high up the organizational chart the rot is.
      It appears football has increased out of state enrollment . I know in my area Ole Miss is now the first choice for kids who can’t get into UGA. Maybe it is similar to SMU where the president knew and encouraged it.
      Just speculating.

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    • DawgWalker07

      My only thing with firing Freeze is who on this earth could you hire to replace him? I’m not saying you’re wrong about organizational rot, but it’s also quite possible that they wish they could unload him but know they wouldn’t be able to bring anyone worth their salt in to replace him while all of this is going on.

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      • If Baylor could find a mid-major up and comer to replace Art Briles, Ole Miss can find somebody if it comes to that. They’ll probably get skinned on the contract terms, but it’s not like money is a real issue right now.

        Liked by 1 person

        • South FL Dawg

          I think Baylor found Jim Grobe for the interim year between Briles and Mr. Mid-major. If Ole Miss wanted to dump Freeze a guy like Grobe isn’t a bad bridge. But somehow I don’t see Ole Miss conceding anything. It will be interesting to say the least.

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      • 3rdandGrantham

        Who cares who they would hire to replace him. Again, Ole Miss is going to be in the deep dark ages for at least the next 5-6 years, all while under heavy NCAA probation with little to play for. So does it really matter if Freeze wins 4-5 games a year compared to someone else who might win 3-4 games yearly instead?

        Besides, I’m not sure why we are crowning Freeze as some brilliant HC that Ole Miss is lucky to have. Ole Miss, though rampant cheating, attracted top flight talent that traditionally they never sniffed at getting, and as a result they won more than usual. In other words, Ole Miss won due to a marked increase of talent, NOT because Freeze is some mastermind who is a magic worker. Finally, again let’s not forget that Freeze’s reputation is ruined, and he’s going to find it much, much harder to recruit/attract talent from this point forward.

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    • Bigshot

      can they fire for cause, before the NCAA has concluded they did anything wrong? Remember these are still allegations.

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      • Good question. And further, if they argue they’re firing for cause, aren’t they just making the NCAA’s case easier?

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        • 3rdandGrantham

          From what I understand, the select level 1 violations Ole Miss has admitted to (and thus, as a result, have enacted self-punishment measures as a result like the ’17 bowl ban, etc.) is all they need to fire Freeze for cause. The other violations in questions that are still floating around out there would merely be the cherry on top in this case.

          Let’s not forget that, even if NCAA takes absolutely no measures from this point forward and/or Ole Miss is able to fight off the remaining allegations — including lack of institutional control — they still have committed (and admitted to) major NCAA violations that will hamper their program tremendously for at least several years to come.

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  2. Gaskilldawg

    I find it amazing that when a coach is successful he or she attributes his or her success to being detailed oriented and having control over every element of the program, then when assistants get caught the head coach denies any knowledge of what his going on his hisor her program.

    For example, Louisville coach Rick Pitino claims he was shocked to learn that an assistant coach was bringing strippers and hookers for recruits into the dormitory named after Pitinos brother in law for a few years. He cannot claim attention to detail as a virtue while still claiming he did not know what his assistants and players were doing under his nose.

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    • 3rdandGrantham

      Yep, great point, and it really is amazing, isn’t it? Even the greatest coaches of all time have pathetically engaged in such nonsense. Take Belichick, for example, who is known for being so detail obsessed that he frets about what kind shoe laces his players use. Yet during/after spygate, he suddenly had no clue what was going on and was just as shocked as you and I to find out what his staff were doing.

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      • Charlottedawg

        Clearly you’re new to this cheating thing. Being detail oriented extends to knowing the things you as senior management can’t know about. Plausible deniability my friend. “I do declare! I had no idea my employees were doing that senator! I am just as shocked as you. Truly blindsided. We’re such a big organization….” – every CEO dragged in front of Congress.

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  3. Bulldog Joe

    http://www.localmemphis.com/news/local-news/no-23-ole-miss-dominates-no-12-georgia-45-14/563562473

    If it ever happens, count me as one Georgia fan who will take great pleasure in seeing that program pay the price.

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  4. If the NCAA doesn’t drop the hammer on Ole Mi$$, then the next time some Georgia player sells an autograph or a piece of memorabilia, we need to tell the NCAA to go pound sand. Who am I kidding?

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  5. SemperFiDawg

    “Gee, kinda like a playoff selection committee, just with sanctions.”

    Thanks for the Monday morning smile.

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  6. Bulldog Joe

    Since Bjork and Freeze arrived, Ole Miss’ enrollment has grown 20%, they built a brand new basketball arena, the built a brand new indoor athletic training facility, they doubled the size of their baseball stadium, they are expanding their football stadium, and they have blown well past their goal of raising $150 million for the athletic program.

    Regardless of whatever wrist slap the NCAA may or not give them, most Ole Miss supporters will say it was well worth the risk.

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    • Don’t forget that Freeze is now making $5 million a year. So, yeah, I doubt there are any real regrets from him.

      Might be worth revisiting the worth the risk evaluation for everyone else in 3-4 years, though.

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  7. rchris

    Rather than the death penalty I hope they cripple them for years to come. Something like 6 scollys lost per year for 12 years and everyone has a year to transfer without sitting out. And make them win 7 games over FBS teams before they go bowling. As far as how this affects UGA, the days of Ole Miss coming into GA or FL and grabbing a kid we want are over. Miss St might take up a little of the slack, but not much.

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  8. Cousin Eddie

    Am I wrong or are the “results” of the Tunsil investigation going to follow this investigation or have they just let that go? They have copies of the text messages but I haven’t heard anything specific involving Tunsil.

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    • Sherlock

      If someone knows, I would like this information as well. When I read through the list of charges (at least the list that was in the article the Senator posted a little white ago) they were fairly minor except for a little payola to recruits that went elsewhere. I saw nothing about Tunsil, Nkemdiche, or Treadwell.

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  9. nolo contendere

    my money is on jr landing in oxford next year

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    • 92 grad

      I’m kind of worried that they’ll hire Jeremy Pruitt. I think that dude has “it” and may run a solid program some day soon.

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  10. Olddawg 55

    “Marsh said.”…did we just identify the anonymous former committee member?

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  11. Derek Dooley 2.0

    While the quantity of Ole Miss violations may be unheard of……their case certainly isn’t worse than Penn State or Baylor. Any penalty should take into consideration what the crime was. Not just what “level” it is. Just my 2 cents. It’s amazing that Auburn and Alabama skate through any and everything without repercussion. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of this weren’t leaked from Tuscaloosa for 2 losses in a row to Ole Miss.

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    • Dylan Dreyer's Booty

      I agree with Auburn skating through everything. I’d like to see Ole Miss get some come uppance because of Tunsil and then Freeze tweeting that if we had evidence to let him know, etc. But then on the other hand: Auburn. What pictures do they have of NCAA enforcement staff?

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      • Bulldog Joe

        At the time of the Cam Newton purchase, the NCAA enforcement staff were Auburn guys so everything was gucci.

        Dan Mullen may yet find a reason to smile if the NCAA ever does anything substantial with Ole Miss, but I wouldn’t bet money on it.

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