When Ole Miss suddenly began signing one four-star football player after another, SEC observers clucked their tongues.
Alabama doesn’t lose players to Ole Miss. It just doesn’t. The Rebels are historically second-tier competitors in America’s most powerful football conference. They need to know their place.
And under coach Huge Freeze the Rebels were signing one blue-chip player after another? Hmmmm . . . we all know how this is possible. Unusual recruiting success invariably invites NCAA scrutiny, thanks to prodding from rival coaches.
Investigators usually find something when they explore unusual recruiting success, given the vast scope of NCAA rules. One way or another, the NCAA usually puts the program back in its place.
And here we are with Ole Miss. Now branded as cheaters, the Rebels are beginning to pay the price for their aggressiveness.
Ole Miss self-imposed a bowl ban for 2017, which also cost them their share of SEC postseason revenue — about $8 million. Their latest recruiting class was diminished and tougher sanctions are certainly to come.
SI.com Pete Thamel had this take:
After years of defiant downplaying, spinning and denying the magnitude of the NCAA’s investigation into the football program, everything changed for Ole Miss after it received the revised Notice of Allegations from the NCAA . . . The new narrative is that Ole Miss football is in big trouble, and its ability to navigate the muddled NCAA investigative process will determine the extent of that trouble.
The university had already self-imposed 11 scholarships in May, among other penalties, as a pre-emptive measure. But the news of both the lack of institutional control charge against the school and the bowl ban puts the immediate future of the Rebels football program and Freeze’s career in jeopardy.
What happens from here? In a case defined by wild plot twists so far—a gas mask bond and leaked text messages, for starters—the rest of what will determine Ole Miss’s future is actually quite mundane. The university must continue working through the NCAA legal process, which could take another year.
There are myriad factors at play here, which make the results unpredictable. The two biggest issues facing Ole Miss are how successful the university is in defending itself against the lack of institutional control charge and how successful Freeze is in proving he’s not responsible for what happened. The school is standing by Freeze for now.
Yeah, but things in Oxford will get a lot worse before they will get better. The NCAA loathes to step on blue-blood programs, but it doesn’t think twice about crushing an upstart like Ole Miss.
Stay tuned . . .
MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE
Questions to ponder while wondering if the sputtering Blues need to make another emergency call to the Chicago Wolves:
THE BASKETBALL DIARIES
Here is what folks are writing about college basketball these days:
Pat Forde, Yahoo! Sports: “LSU seems certain to open (its coaching job) a year later than it should have, as Johnny Jones has crash-landed in last place in the SEC in his fifth season. If the school wants an up-and-coming head coach with SEC experience, it may take a look at Illinois State’s Dan Muller, who spent 12 seasons at Vanderbilt as an assistant to Kevin Stallings. Within the same state there is Louisiana Tech’s Eric Konkol, a former Jim Larranaga assistant at Miami who is 43-18 in less than two seasons at Tech.”
Eamonn Brennan, ESPN.com: “The Pac-12 has come a long way since 2011-12. It feels crazy now, but five years ago, the conference got just two NCAA tournament bids — which, if our math checks out, is just one more than the bare minimum NCAA tournament rules allow. Washington, which went 14-4 en route to a regular-season Pac-12 title that season, became the first power-conference team to win a league title but fail to get an at-large tourney bid. This was a crazy aberration, sure, and things were better the next March — yet even that five-bid league’s regular-season champ (UCLA) fired its coach (Ben Howland) a few days after the season ended. The 2016-17 (cue the Bill Walton soundboard here) conference of champions makes those days feel like ancient memory. The conference might not boast the depth of the ACC or the pound-for-pound brutality of the Big 12, but it has something few leagues can offer, something this league itself hasn’t had in a long time: three evenly matched squads, each uniquely talented, all of which — most importantly — have a real chance of ending the league’s nine-year Final Four drought.”
Matt Norlander, CBSSports.com: “Arizona is 25-3, ranked No. 4 and in the midst of one of the most surprising seasons in college hoops. Yes, the Wildcats are a modern-day power, but this team lost five-star player Terrance Ferguson to ineligibility in the fall. Then former five-star recruit Ray Smith gave up basketball for good after another devastating injury. Projected Pac-12 First-Teamer Allonzo Trier waited in limbo for more than three months after failing a PED test. What was supposed to be unfeasible has instead transformed the Wildcats into a national title contender. Lauri Markkanen is why. The Finnish phenom is, potentially, an all-timer. A towering sharpshooter, Markkanen comes from a basketball family, bolstered in promise by Möttölä’s tutoring. Markkanen could be the puzzle-solver. He could be the guy to lift Arizona coach Sean Miller to the first Final Four of his career, and he could be the next European-born NBA superstar. But beyond that, most importantly, he could change basketball’s popularity in his home country forever. Because truly great hardwood players don’t come from the Nordic. Not until now.”
Will Leitch, Sports on Earth: “On Feb. 12, Northwestern pulled off an upset win over Wisconsin that, in the eyes of many hopeful watchers, essentially punched its tournament ticket. It was the ‘signature’ win the Wildcats needed, the one that took them off the bubble. Most projection systems have them roughly around a 8 or 9 seed right now. But I might humbly suggest that the sentimental factor of Northwestern is artificially inflating its projected seedings. This is not a great team. Northwestern’s RPI is only 42, which is respectable but hardly a golden ticket: Colorado State missed the tournament at 29 just two years ago. That Wisconsin win loses luster by the day: The Badgers just lost again to Ohio State on Thursday for their third loss in their past four games. Northwestern doesn’t have many great wins: It has only three RPI top-50 victories, and its best one isn’t even Wisconsin: It’s Dayton, at the United Center back in December. More to the point: The Wildcats are falling apart lately. They’ve lost four of their past six, including two at home, and their only win outside of that Wisconsin win was a very wobbly home victory over Rutgers. My Illini beat them twice in two weeks, both rather convincingly. Top scorer Scottie Lindsey missed several games with mono and has been ineffective since returning, and it has knocked the whole team off course.”
“It was intentional. Did you see it? Yeah, that’s not a basketball play by any means. Guys who aren’t factors in games do that. It is what it is.”
• Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, complaining about a hard shove from Toronto Raptor (and former Mizzou star) DeMarre Carroll.