Hey, NCAA: Time to leave Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze, Laremy Tunsil alone

Published 10:43 am Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Hugh Freeze is frustrated.

We can see it in his deleted tweets.

Freeze even said so much on the record about six weeks ago, when addressing Ole Miss’ troubles with the NCAA regarding football rules violations and resulting criticism that goes along, saying that it “is frustrating.”

Email newsletter signup

I like Hugh Freeze as a coach and as a person, a lot. He’s a good man, and we are glad to have him at Ole Miss.

I am not too fond of the NCAA, however. That’s why I am a little frustrated, as well. Many Ole Miss fans probably feel the same way.

The NCAA has its head in the sand of what’s really happening in major college athletics, regarding money that should be given to players from a billion-dollar sport, and money that is being given to players from agents, alumni and others.

But, the agency decides to take an FBI-like stance into Ole Miss and Laremy Tunsil because two instances, a fight with his step-father and a social media hacker on NFL draft day, gained national news attention?

Embarrassment, it seems, makes the otherwise passive NCAA quite aggressive.

I feel bad for Laremy Tunsil. Really, I do. He will make up for it in the NFL, but the NCAA’s lengthy and rather public investigation of he and his family is out of bounds. They are damaging his relationships and damaging his reputation as a person with this ongoing saga.

Sometimes, also, the athlete on the end of an investigation is not necessarily a beggar. It’s possible they are a victim.

Of a system gone wrong.

Money for a mother’s utility bill? Hotel rooms?

It isn’t perfect, but, it hardly seems a crime that elicits, as some say, a seminal moment for the NCAA infractions committee that could make or break Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss football as we know it now.

Spend some time around LSU, Auburn, or Ohio State and Florida State and ask if football players get benefits beyond what the NCAA prescribes. They will laugh.

Big-time college athletics, after all, has a history of houses and cars being purchased, and suitcases of money. Such behavior seems a better use of FBI-like time and resources from the NCAA.

Ole Miss fans, of course, like to blame #thenetwork (Mississippi State). Freeze himself seems to have fallen for that narrative, since a tweet he dished up late last week (and later deleted) suggested the heated in-state rivalry has gone too far.

But while it makes for a good punch, Mississippi State doesn’t have that much sway with the power brokers of college football. Alabama and Nick Saban, whom Ole Miss has beaten two seasons in a row?

That constitutes a better theory, for those with conspiracy on their minds. But, even Alabama has troubles with the (NCAA) law.

Just this week Alabama self-reported 19 secondary NCAA violations, five of which were in football. And get this: one of Alabama’s rules violations involved a trophy “temporarily placed in an area where prospects taking an official visit would be.”

One could not make this up.

A lot of well-paid people spent a lot of time on that, and the NCAA, which sets the rules, sits back with a straight face, drawing it up as another deed well done in conscientious self-reporting.

The honor system, if you will.

Meanwhile, the Alabama football team earned more than $46 million dollars in profits last season, a national championship year. Saban earned almost $8 million himself. Crimson Tide players officially got nothing more than a free education, and a peek at a trophy in the wrong place.

Nick Saban is no Satan, of course. Hardly. He’s a decent man himself who happens to be a terrific football coach. He cares about his players, and if he were allowed to pay them, he undoubtedly would, knowing they are worth every penny.

But, the very notion that the NCAA oversees a billion-dollar sport in big-time college football and puts the pressure on head coaches like Hugh Freeze, and Nick Saban, to make sure no coaches, alumni, or players break the rules, and that not one trophy gets even a little bit out of place, is wrong.

And, impossible.

It is asking too much of coaches who can’t possibly have that kind of control, no matter what kind of human, or coach, they are. That’s why they can end up frustrated, publicly labeled as cheaters in a game well beyond their control.

Sure, mistakes have been made by Freeze and by Ole Miss, with punishment appropriately dished out. But at this point the NCAA should leave Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze and Laremy Tunsil alone.

The agency’s time could be better spent elsewhere.

David Magee is Publisher of The Oxford Eagle. He can be reached at david.magee@oxfordeagle.com.