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Ole Miss doubles down on the purity of Hugh Freeze, a man wronged by a vast Starkville conspiracy.

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No, really. That’s most of the defense.

Mississippi v Alabama
Saban smirking. No reason ;)
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Bold move there, Cotton

Ole Miss finally got around to filing its dilatory response to the NCAA’s notice of allegations, and, man, it’s a doozie.

From the Ole Miss legal team:

This case does not involve a head coach who facilitated or participated in violations or otherwise ignored red flags associated with them. Freeze developed and implemented a broad, staff-wide compliance program dedicated to satisfying the NCAA’s amended head coach responsibility legislation in early 2013, and he has continuously worked to expand and improve upon that program ever since. Those who have worked under Freeze consistently report his emphasis on compliance, including his direction to promptly involve the University’s compliance staff in their recruiting choices.

The Rebels’ basic strategy seems to be: throw former AD/bagman Barney Farrar under the bus and admit some allegations, admit the prior acts committed by Houston Nutt’s regime, paint the Mississippi State Bulldogs as some sort of conspiratorial Mayberry Machiavellis masterminding the whole thing — oh, and everyone else lied.

The net effect is to double down on the virginal purity of Hugh Freeze, a man as wronged as anyone in this process, and —aw shucks— how is he supposed to be responsible for things he didn’t know about it. Moreover, aw shucks, the NCAA didn’t let them cross examine a player in the middle of his interview with the COI (which they’re not entitled to do.) And, aw shucks, Mississippi State wouldn’t let their lawyers interview Dan Mullen (a request as inappropriate as it is bizarre, and which they are not entitled to do.)

Spoiler: I doubt it is going to work. There are literal bagmen here with sacks full of 10s of 1000s of dollars; there are free clothes, free housing, free lodging, free junkets, sweetheart auto “leases” and “rentals;” and, worse, more than enough of a paper trail and actual witnesses to indict Al Capone’s corpse. (For a lighthearted look at the allegations, Kirschner ranks all 21 by zestiness. LOL)

The NCAA is looking for an excuse to break their foot off in someone’s ass with the head coach responsibility legislation passed in 2013. Ole Miss wants so desperately to avoid this clause but really makes no compelling case why this case should fall outside of the scope of that provision.

And, let us be honest here too: Ole Miss makes a very tempting target, partially because they have been so stubborn, because of who they are, and because everything just looks so damned bad (even ignoring Laremy Tunsil begging administrator bagmen for momma’s light bill money on Draft night.) Administratively: the Rebels have shown nothing but public defiance; the fact not one coach or administrator was dismissed because of the allegation; the fact boosters have not been disassociated. Programmatically: how quickly the Rebels turned it around based on recruiting; recruiting classes that had more last minute unexpected signing and flip-flops that sent up more smoke than a Wiz Khalifa concert; the brashness of the program both on the field and with police incidents and bizarre suspensions and even more bizarre hospitalizations; a holier-than-thou Tweet machine coach who comes across as a venal hypocrite. Politically: The fact that this is such a PR nightmare for the NCAA and its lauding of amateurism; that Ole Miss is not a marquee program; that Ole Miss’ half-ass response and self-imposed discipline for the initial allegations was so tepid; that the NCAA needs a head on the wall to enforce legislation that says, as Bjork and company do here, “I didn’t know.”

It’s your program. It’s your job to know. And, it’s your head if you don’t.

All of those make perfect cannon fodder for the NCAA.

(Bonus sleazy points to Ole Miss also for breaking the 4th wall of student anonymity and all-but naming Leo Lewis as “Student Athlete 39.” They embedded one of his tweets (with the clapping Heath Ledger Joker gif) as proof of a Starkville conspiracy. Yeah, the Committee on Infractions is going to loooove that power play.)

And everything about this case is a power play. Godfrey rightly observes that there is no room for compromise here: Ole Miss’ response leaves no wiggle room at the hearing or compromise in the discliplinary process. Either the Rebels play nice (which they laughably maintain they’ve done,) or they play hard ball and make the NCAA prove its case. In either event, the Rebels face 11 Type I infractions, a total of 21 in football, which is more than enough to send the program back to the bad ole’ days of say...2011 (that improvement’s not fishy or anything.) Nothing is gained by playing nice; the NCAA is prepping their rail guns for a strike from low earth orbit. If Oxford can’t get out of the sites, it will be a smoldering ruin for at least a decade to come.

Red Cup Rebellion has their coverage of the reply here.

For the complete story, including the breakdown of infractions and the full 124-page response from Ole Miss, get thee here. (Just a warning: I read insurance policies and construction contracts for fun, and even some of this verbiage was dense legal doo doo-flinging towards the walls in Indianapolis.)

No poll today, but we have more of an open-ended question: How do you think this plays out? Does the NCAA back off some allegations? Does the Committee on Infractions drop the hammer on Colonel Reb (I know, I’s a black bear now.) What penalties do you see? How will this affect the West? Recruiting?

Chime in below.