Ole Miss officials upset with ruling, say ‘NCAA has unfairly punished’ program

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Steven Branscombe/USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA has come down hard on the Ole Miss football program, banning the Rebels from the postseason in 2018 and imposing additional scholarship restrictions.

Ole Miss was accused of 15 Level I violations – the most serious in the NCAA rulebook – for transgressions committed during the tenures of Houston Nutt and Hugh Freeze. The school met with the NCAA Committee on Infractions in September, and the NCAA released its report Friday.

Ole Miss had self-imposed both a bowl ban for this season and scholarship restrictions, but the NCAA added more to each element. Ole Miss chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said Friday at a news conference that the additional year of the bowl ban is “simply not warranted” and that it is “clearly an excessive punishment.”

Ole Miss is allowed to appeal, and AD Ross Bjork said the school expects to do that next week.

“The NCAA has unfairly punished young men who have been through so much. We will fight for them and appeal,” Vitter said.

Freeze was fired in July for issues not related to the NCAA investigation. He would face a two-conference-game suspension if he’s a head coach in 2018 but not as an assistant.

The NCAA report said the infractions committee said the case was the result of “a culture at the university where rules violations were acceptable” in the football program

“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,” the report said.

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Because of the additional year of the postseason ban, Ole Miss seniors now can transfer without penalty, meaning they can leave and be eligible immediately elsewhere.

In all, Ole Miss will lose 24 scholarships. The school had self-imposed a loss of 11, but the NCAA added 13 more.

New Rebels coach Matt Luke, who had been an assistant on Freeze’s staff, was not named in the NCAA report and thus did not get a show-cause penalty.

(You can follow Mike Huguenin on Twitter @MikeHuguenin)

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