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NCAA: Ole Miss ‘lacked institutional control,’ will be punished with bowl ban, scholarship reductions

Photo by Thomas Graning / ESPN Images
Photo by Thomas Graning / ESPN Images

(OXFORD, Miss.) — The NCAA laid down harsh penalties against the University of Mississippi on Friday, including scholarship reductions and a postseason ban, as part of the investigation into a series of recruiting violations committed by the football program.

The university says it will “vigorously appeal” the 2018 postseason ban, calling it “excessive,” in part because the school self-imposed a postseason ban for 2017.

Ole Miss was accused of 15 Level I violations and were deemed to have lacked institutional control and fostered “an unconstrained culture of booster involvement in football recruiting.” The NCAA noted that former head coach Hugh Freeze “acknowledged that upon coming to Mississippi, he was surprised by the ‘craziness’ of boosters trying to insert themselves into his program.”

Six football staff members and 12 boosters were involved in the violations, which included providing $37,000 to prospects through cash payments, use of automobiles, lodging, transportation, meals and apparel. Two staffers also arranged for fraudulent standardized test scores for three recruits.

Freeze resigned over off-field issues — including allegations that he repeatedly made phone calls to escort services — in July. The NCAA tagged him with a two-game conference suspension for failure to monitor his staff. That suspension would go into effect only if Freeze became a head coach again.

Ole Miss will be on probation for three years, and will vacate the records of all wins in which ineligible student-athletes participated.

“The violations resulted from a culture of rules violations being acceptable in the Mississippi football program,” the NCAA ruling explained.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacy Osborne told ESPN that Ole Miss seniors will be permitted to transfer to another school without penalty, due to the postseason ban.

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