Despite hitting the six-win minimum for bowl eligibility this season, Ole Miss decided to play it safe and voluntarily sit out of the 2017 bowl season while the NCAA was conducting its investigation into the program. College athletics’ governing body says that will not be enough.
According to multiple reports Friday morning, Ole Miss has been issued a bowl ban for the 2018 season in addition to scholarship restrictions and a show-cause (any penalties applied could be transfer to whichever school hires the coaches being sanctioned) for the coaches associated with the NCAA investigation. Surprisingly, the show-cause penalty does not apply to former head coach Hugh Freeze.
Hugh Freeze avoids a show cause by the NCAA, which determined he promoted an atmosphere of compliance, but failed to monitor his staff. Freeze has no restrictions has an assistant coach in 2018, but would have to serve a 2-game suspension as a head coach for conference games.
— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) December 1, 2017
The penalties are the result of an extended investigation that involved boosters being accused of providing extra benefits to recruits, including Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis.
As outlined by Steven Godfrey of SB Nation, who has been on top of the Ole Miss news for years, the sanctions for the Rebels football program are as follows:
- Bowl ban for 2018 season
- Four-year probation and financial penalties (reportedly $179,000 according to a separate report)
- Loss of 13 scholarships for three years
- Show-cause for every coach connected to Ole Miss investigation
Our source says 2 year bowl ban, 4 years probation, 13 schollies and $179k penalty. Trying to get second confirmation.
— Chuck Rounsaville (@SpiritChuck) December 1, 2017
Can confirm, per a source, a second season was added to the postseason ban and additional scholarship reductions. https://t.co/Lg91hUuNOM
— Antonio Morales (@AntonioCMorales) December 1, 2017
The Ole Miss investigation had been going on for five years, so it was time to bring this cloud of uncertainty to a close. In the end, the sanctions handed down will likely hold the program back a little bit, but this is far from a death sentence.
The loss of 13 scholarships will lead to some depth concerns for the Rebels over the next few years and it may take an extra year or two to fully recover from that, but an additional bowl ban for one season will not be the nail in the coffin for the Ole Miss program (Missing out on bowl revenue shares from the SEC, however, is quite a punishment in itself.)
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) November 27, 2017
Ole Miss recently removed the interim tag from head coach Matt Luke, which suggested the school was aware that selling the program to any other potential candidate would be difficult with the impending sanctions about to drop in Oxford. Having Luke as the head coach demonstrated some stability with the coaching situation and, as it turns out, that is probably the best-case scenario.
Luke keeping his dream job and helping guide the program through the coming years is a convenience for the Rebels, and that ends up being a decent coaching situation to have lined up. Luke was not named in the investigation, so there is no show-cause penalty for him.
Freeze, on the other hand, will be out of coaching for a while, at least in the college game. Chip Kelly was the most recent FBS coach to be slapped with a show-cause penalty, which he handled by heading to the NFL before his eventual return to UCLA years after the punishment expired. Technically, Freeze can still coach, but any school hiring him would have to prepare for review and possible punishment from the NCAA. So yeah, Freeze’s job opportunities in college football are ice-cold for the next couple of years.