Category Archives: The NCAA

“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.



Filed under Freeze!, The NCAA

Today, in great moments of non-mention list entitled “SEC football’s notable NCAA cases over the years” contains nary a mention of Georgia.


Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football, The NCAA

Ole Miss follow up, part one

Andy Staples makes some good points about the pressures the NCAA is under handling the investigation of Hugh Freeze’s program, but this one in particular resonated with me:

What does this mean for Ole Miss? It means the future prospects for the program and the people who run it look far worse than when the NCAA initially presented the Rebels with a Notice of Allegations last year. That original notice included a hodgepodge of ticky-tack violations that certainly didn’t bode well for the Rebels, but they could have been argued around. The small switch might have sufficed. But that notice came before some contents of one of former Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil’s devices got released on the first night of the NFL draft last April. Instead of holding a hearing based on those accusations, the NCAA re-opened the investigation. Had Ole Miss officials been told on draft night that the expanded investigation wouldn’t find any smoking guns (or gas masks) based on the text messages released on draft night, they likely would have breathed sighs of relief. The eight new allegations don’t include anything stemming from the draft night dump, but they do suggest a deeper pattern of violations of the NCAA’s rules. They include a charge that sometime between April 2014 and February 2015, an Ole Miss staffer introduced a recruit to two boosters who provided inducements valued between $13,000 and $15,600. The recruit then chose another school and dropped the dime on the Rebels when offered immunity…

Why does that resonate?  Because it reminds me of the NCAA’s approach in the AJ Green investigation.  Allegations about a Miami trip were complete bullshit, but the second bite at the apple, a simple question about looking at Green’s finances, yielded pay dirt.

What matters about Tunsil now isn’t that there are any allegations tied to him directly, but that what happened on draft night gave the NCAA the impetus to dig anew.  You can probably argue it also put the court of public sentiment on the side of the investigators, which ain’t an easy thing to do.  So, yeah, it was a big deal.

Seth Emerson wonders what might have been had Tunsil signed with Georgia.  Ole Miss fans should wonder what might have been had Tunsil not left early for the NFL draft.


Filed under Freeze!, The NCAA

Boom goes the NCAA’s dynamite.

Ole Miss, when you find yourself spending more than 20 minutes explaining your response to the latest round of NCAA’s Notice of Allegations, you’re losing.

These are the three allegations the school won’t challenge

1. The first allegation – it is alleged that a prospective student-athlete (Prospective Student-Athlete A) went hunting near campus on private land owned by a booster during his official visit in 2013 and on two or three occasions after he enrolled, and that the access to this land was arranged by the football program. This has been alleged as a Level III violation.

2. The second allegation – it is alleged that between March 2014 and January 2015, a former staff member (Former Staff Member A) impermissibly arranged for recruiting inducements in the form of lodging and transportation for one prospective student-athlete (Prospective Student-Athlete B) (who enrolled at another institution) and his companions on several visits to campus and for the impermissible transportation of another prospective student-athlete (Prospective Student-Athlete C) on one occasion. The total value of the lodging and/or transportation between the two prospective student-athletes is alleged to be $2,272. It is also alleged that the football program provided approximately $235 in free meals to Prospective Student-Athlete B (who enrolled at another institution) and Prospective Student-Athlete C and the friends of Prospective Student-Athlete B during recruiting visits in this same timeframe. The allegation is alleged as a Level I violation.

3. Third, it is alleged that Former Staff Member A violated the NCAA principles of ethical conduct when he knowingly committed NCAA recruiting violations between March 2014 and February 2015 and when he knowingly provided false or misleading information to the institution and enforcement staff in 2016. This is charged as a Level I violation.

Then, there’s one the school may or may not challenge.

4. In the fourth allegation, it is alleged that between April 2014 and February 2015, Former Staff Member A initiated and facilitated two boosters having impermissible contact with Prospective Student-Athlete B (who enrolled at another institution). It is further alleged that these two boosters provided Prospective Student-Athlete B (who enrolled at another institution) with impermissible cash payments during that timeframe and that Former Staff Member A knew about the cash payments. The value of the alleged inducements according to the NCAA is between $13,000 and $15,600. This is charged as a Level I violation.

The rest they intend to fight.

5. Allegation number five – It is alleged that one former staff member (Former Staff Member B) arranged for a friend of the family of Prospective Student-Athlete D to receive impermissible merchandise from a store owned by a booster on one occasion in 2013 and that Former Staff Member A arranged for Prospective Student-Athletes B and E (both student-athletes enrolled at another institution) to receive merchandise in 2014, 15, and 16. The value of the alleged impermissible recruiting inducements is approximately $2,800 and is charged as a Level I violation.

6. Number six – It is alleged and we will contest that, in 2014 a current football coach had impermissible, in-person, off-campus contact with Prospective Student-Athlete B (who enrolled at another institution). This allegation is charged as a Level III violation.

7. Allegation seven – It is alleged that a booster provided money, food and drinks to Prospective Student-Athlete B (who enrolled at another institution) and his companions at the booster’s restaurant on two-to-three unspecified dates between March 2014 and January 2015.   The value of the alleged inducements is between $200 and $600. This allegation is charged as a Level I violation that we will contest.

8. Another Allegation that we will contest is number eight – It is alleged that the head football coach violated head coach responsibility legislation. This allegation is not based upon personal involvement in violations by Coach Freeze but because he is presumed responsible for the allegation involving his staff that occurred between October 2012 and January 2016. Although we disagree, according to the NCAA, Coach Freeze has not rebutted the presumption that he is responsible for his staff’s actions. This is charged as a Level I violation.

9. Finally, allegation nine – It is alleged that the scope and nature of the violations demonstrate that the university lacked institutional control and failed to monitor the conduct and administration of its athletics program.  This charge replaces the more limited failure to monitor charge in the January 2016 Notice of Allegations.  This is charged as a Level I violation that we will contest.

The last two are the real killers.  If you want the Cliff’s Notes version, Ole Miss is about to get seriously hammered.

To give you a rough idea of how serious this has gotten for the school, Ole Miss’ starting position is a self-imposed postseason ban for 2017.  There’s real money tied to that, too.

I bet there are a few tweets Bjork and Freeze wish they could have back now.  Have fun on the recruiting trail with this, fellas.  On the bright side, none of it has anything to do with Tunsil.  Stepdad must have made a helluva convincing witness.

I’m sure Greg Sankey’s a happy commissioner right now.  It would serve the SEC right if Ole Miss won the West this season.


UPDATE:  Best complaint ever.


Filed under Freeze!, The NCAA

If it’s the offseason…

… then it must be time for the NCAA to revisit the targeting rule.

College football targeting penalties may become more lenient through a proposed rule change that could result in fewer player ejections.

As targeting ejections have doubled over three years, the NCAA Football Rules Committee is looking at changing the replay standards so a targeting ejection only occurs if the penalty is confirmed. Currently, if replay doesn’t have enough evidence to confirm targeting but can’t rule it’s not targeting, the call on the field stands and the player gets ejected.

NCAA associate director Ty Halpin, the liaison for the rules committee, said ejecting a player is “a pretty expensive deal” if targeting isn’t certain. Halpin said the “vast majority” of targeting flags thrown on the field should be confirmed, but there’s a fairness issue to consider for players.

“We still want to the official to throw the flag there,” Halpin said. “But if replay says there’s a little bit of contact on the shoulder and it’s more because the player adjusted and it wasn’t a dangerous attempt by the player delivering the contact, then maybe that player deserves to stay in the game. It’s a reasonable thing to go with.”

Whatever, man.  Just don’t pretend you won’t be doing more soul searching a year from now, no matter how you tweak things.

Of course, if you’re talking about changing penalty rules, you’ve got to bring our old friend Rogers Redding into the discussion.  He’s certainly on top of things.

National officiating coordinator Rogers Redding said he is not alarmed by more targeting penalties. He attributed the rise to officials becoming more comfortable making the call, a less narrow definition of targeting, and new players coming in each year who aren’t accustomed to the penalty.

This is fine, in other words.  And why shouldn’t it be?

The SEC had the most targeting ejections overall (26) and per game (0.27) and the fewest calls overturned among the Power Five. “I personally think it’s changing player behavior,” SEC officiating coordinator Steve Shaw said.

The American Athletic Conference, which will use collaborative replay for the first time in 2017, had the fewest targeting penalties per game (0.1). The AAC was the only conference with more targeting calls overturned by replay than upheld.

Why is there such a discrepancy by conference in targeting penalties?

“I’ve thought about this a lot,” Redding said. “We do see different styles of play in different conferences. Some are more wide open than others. I think in conferences that are dominated by teams that run wide-open spread, faster-pace offense, you’re more likely to see more plays run in a game. If there’s more plays run, there’s more opportunities for fouls. That may be one thing. We haven’t analyzed it carefully.”

Shit, why should you?  It’s only your job.

Of course, given that it’s Redding saying that, you know there’s a punchline, and Jon Solomon delivers it.

That theory doesn’t appear to hold up. Offenses in the Big 12 and the AAC ran the most plays per game in 2016, yet those leagues finished in the bottom three with the Mountain West for targeting penalties per game.

Maybe the problem isn’t the rules, but the morons paid to enforce them.  Just sayin’, NCAA.


Filed under The NCAA

The NCAA, always about the student-athlete

Ah, the nobility.

Though the NCAA has no subpoena power to compel people outside of its jurisdiction to help investigations, coaches and athletes are bound by rule to speak with the enforcement staff and risk significant penalties for not telling the truth. Duncan said offering immunity is particularly helpful with athletes who might be fearful that they would incriminate themselves in violations.

“Our desire is never to focus on student-athlete culpability,” Duncan said. “In enforcement, our broader desire is to zero in and focus on the adult culpability, the grown-ups who are involved in violations, and one way to substantiate information or to get refuting information is to talk to the student-athletes or prospective student-athletes, particularly in our focus areas of recruiting and academic integrity.

“It is effective to help encourage that young man or young woman to cooperate with us if he or she knows they’ll be eligible to play and won’t be cited for a violation of the infractions process.”

Tell that to AJ Green, shithead.


Filed under Georgia Football, The NCAA

‘You’re doing it again. Don’t do it.’

You have to read this Dennis Dodd interview with North Carolina AD Bubba Cunningham about the ongoing NCAA investigation into the academic shenanigans there in its entirety to get the true flavor of its craziness, but the gist of it is expressed in one Slick Willie-esque paragraph.

Revealing what seems to be North Carolina’s defense in the case, Cunningham told CBS Sports, “Is this academic fraud? Yes, it is by a normal person’s standards. But by the NCAA definition [it is not].”

The NCAA, of which North Carolina is a proud, voting member last time I checked, isn’t normal.  That’s some defense you got there, Bubba.

The whole thing is nuts.


Filed under Academics? Academics., The NCAA