Ole Miss releases response to NCAA Notice of Allegations, disputes several charges

Ole Miss on Tuesday released its official response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations the school received in February, disputing several of the most serious charges against the football program.

In the 125-page response, Ole Miss strongly objected to allegations of a lack of institutional control and head coach responsibility legislation violations by Hugh Freeze, arguing that the case “does not involve a head coach who facilitated or participated in violations or otherwise ignored red flags associated with them.” Recent NCAA legislation holds a head coach responsible for violations committed by underlings, even if the coach had no specific knowledge the rule-breaking had occurred.

“There is no suggestion in this case that Freeze ever attempted, at anytime, to delegate his compliance responsibilities to his assistant coaches or to anyone else,” the school argues. “To the contrary,the factual record shows Freeze has always leaned into his leadership role and compliance obligations.”

Of the “lack of institutional control” allegation, the Ole Miss response argued that such a charge is “not supported by the evidence.” Nevertheless, the school acknowledged that “serious violations occurred.”

Consistent with its commitment to getting it right, the University has conducted an exhaustive and thoughtful examination of the evidence. Based upon that review and the high evidentiary standard prescribed by Bylaw, the University has concluded that significant violations occurred in connection with its football program over a period of years, including during this investigation. These violations, which include multiple, intentional acts of misconduct by (now former) University employees and (now disassociated) boosters, are serious.

Ole Miss did not dispute specific allegations against former football staffer Barney Farrar, with whom the school cut ties in March. Of the allegations against Farrar, the Ole Miss response read “the University has concluded that former off-field staff member Barney Farrar committed significant violations … intentionally hid this misconduct from the University’s compliance staff and his head coach, and used multiple intermediaries in his scheme.”

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Ole Miss disputed some but not all allegations made by Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis, who was heavily recruited by the Rebels and is identified in the document as “Student Athlete 39.” Of Lewis’ allegations — that Ole Miss boosters promised him more than $13,000 among other impermissible benefits, the school response read that “some [are] allegations supported by credible and persuasive evidence, some partially supported and partially refuted by objective evidence, and others entirely unsupported and/or contradicted.”

Nevertheless, the school has disassociated the boosters involved in the Lewis allegations. Farrar was first placed on a leave of absence, and Ole Miss announced his contract was not renewed in March.

Ole Miss self-imposed several penalties in February, including a bowl ban in 2017 and the deduction of seven scholarship. The school will also forfeit its portion of the SEC’s 2017 bowl revenue, believed to be more than $7 million.

The NCAA case against Ole Miss involves 21 football violations, including 13 considered Level I — the most serious. Some stem back to the tenure of former head coach Houston Nutt, whom Freeze replaced in 2012.

You can view the entire Ole Miss response HERE.

Here is a sampling of social media reaction to Ole Miss’ response:

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