Ole Miss gets hit with additional bowl-ban year

Dec 1, 2017 - 8:25 PM The NCAA hit the Ole Miss football team with more punishment on Friday, including an additional year from playing in the postseason in 2018.

Ole Miss will be banned from playing in a bowl again next season and the Rebels also received additional scholarship deductions in the ruling the university received from the NCAA committee on infractions. The university previously self-imposed a bowl ban for this season when it received a notice of allegations in February.

In response to the postseason ban extension, the university later announced to "vigorously appeal" the NCAA's decision.

"Today, the NCAA's Committee on Infractions issued its report to the University of Mississippi regarding the NCAA investigation of the football program," Ole Miss chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said in a statement. "In the report, the committee disagreed with the institution's position on most of the contested allegations. In addition to accepting our previously self-imposed sanctions, the committee has imposed a postseason ban for 2018.

"While we continue to review the full report, we will vigorously appeal the 2018 postseason ban. The additional postseason ban is excessive and does not take into account the corrective actions that we have made in personnel, structure, policies and processes to address the issues."

Because of the two-year bowl ban, NCAA rules state Ole Miss players could become free to transfer elsewhere without sitting out a season.

The Rebels were accused of 15 Level I violations, including lack of institutional control, under former coach Hugh Freeze. The school appeared in front of the NCAA committee on infractions in Covington, Ky., on Sept. 11-12.

"This is now the third case over three decades that has involved the boosters and football program," the NCAA panel stated in its decision. "Even the head coach acknowledged that upon coming to Mississippi, he was surprised by the 'craziness' of boosters trying to insert themselves into his program. At the hearing, Mississippi's chancellor acknowledged his institution's problem with boosters, characterizing one instance as 'disturbingly questionable.'"

Freeze, who resigned for off-field issues in July, received a one-year show-cause penalty and a two-game suspension from the NCAA for failure to monitor his staff. His resignation came after the university found records of phone calls from Freeze to an escort service on his school-issued cell phone.

Former Rebels assistant coaches David Saunders, Chris Vaughn, Chris Kiffin and staff member Barney Farrar were among those disciplined by the NCAA.

Ole Miss also was penalized by the NCAA with an additional loss of 13 football scholarships. As part of self-imposed sanctions, the university already cut 11 scholarships over a four-year period from 2015 to 2018.

Ole Miss also agreed to forfeit its share of SEC postseason revenues for next season, which could be as much as $7.8 million, ESPN reported.

Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis told NCAA investigators that he received between $13,000 and $15,600 from an Ole Miss booster while the Rebels were recruiting him. The university disputed charges that Lewis and Mississippi State defensive end Kobe Jones received free merchandise from Rebel Rags, a sporting goods store in Oxford, Miss.

"Off the field, (Freeze) promoted an atmosphere of compliance and expected his staff to abide by the rules," the NCAA ruling said. "However, throughout his tenure, the head coach also violated NCAA head coach responsibility legislation because he failed to monitor his program's activities surrounding the recruitment of prospects. Members of his staff knowingly committed recruiting violations, submitted false information on recruiting paperwork and failed to report known violations."

Matt Luke guided the Rebels to a 6-6 record this season after taking over for Freeze. Luke had the interim tag removed on Sunday when he was officially named head coach.

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