The significance of this Wall Street Journal story concerning the allegation that coaches were using burner phones to contact recruits in ways that may not have been exactly kosher isn’t the truth of the allegation itself — the AD didn’t uncover any evidence that it occurred.
It’s that the school quickly jumped through hoops to respond to Thomas Mars’ warning.
In August, University of Mississippi athletic director Ross Bjork assembled the football team’s coaching staff in a meeting room. He handed out a form that asked the coaches to disclose whether they had used personal phones, including “prepaid phones, pay as you go, burner, etc.” for recruiting or any other work-related purpose.
If the coaches had done so, the form said, those phones could be subject to records requests or “required to be furnished upon request of the University or NCAA to ensure compliance with University, SEC and NCAA rules.”
The unusual demand was in response to an accusation that coaches at Ole Miss—already under NCAA investigation for recruiting violations—had improperly used burner phones to contact football recruits, according to records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The accusation came from a lawyer for Houston Nutt, a former Ole Miss coach who is suing the school over an alleged smear campaign by the school surrounding its ongoing NCAA investigation…
Then on July 25, five days after Freeze’s dismissal, Mars wrote a text message to the school’s lead lawyer alleging that Freeze and at least three other staff members used burner phones “on a regular basis” to hide communications with recruits that would violate NCAA rules. A later letter from Mars said he had a sworn affidavit testifying to Freeze’s use of burner phones, in violation of NCAA rules. The use of unreported burner phones would make it more difficult to monitor recruiting practices, which are strictly regulated by the NCAA.
Mars’s letter prompted Ole Miss to self-report the information to the NCAA and distribute the phone declaration form to the football staff. Of the 29 people who filled it out, the school says, none reported using a burner, prepaid or pay-as-you-go phone during their time at Ole Miss.
Of course, that does leave a few unanswered questions, starting with the fact that Ole Miss doesn’t appear to have forms filled out by its former coaches. But it’s remarkable now to see any allegation made by the Nuttster’s attorney immediately put the school on DEFCON alert.