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Ole Miss football self-imposes 2017 bowl ban amid new NCAA allegations

Ole Miss has self-imposed a bowl ban for the 2017 season in light of new allegations that have surfaced in the amended Notice of Allegations the school recently received as part of the NCAA’s ongoing investigation into the football program.

“The decision to add the postseason ban was a joint decision by Chancellor (Jeffrey) Vitter and myself and supported by Coach (Hugh) Freeze,” Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said. “We also consulted with our legal team, which includes two outside law firms with extensive experience in NCAA cases.”

As part of the ban, Ole Miss, under Southeastern Conference rules, will forfeit its portion of the league’s postseason revenue for next season, which will be approximately $7.8 million, Bjork said.

Ole Miss had previously self-imposed the loss of 11 scholarships over four seasons starting with the 2015-16 academic year and three years of probation, but the number of alleged rules violations rose from 13 to 21 in the amended notice after the case was reopened following former offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil’s claim on the first night of last year’s NFL Draft that he accepted money from an Ole Miss staffer, though none of the new allegations are related to that night.

Of the nine new allegations, seven are deemed Level I infractions, the most serious in the eyes of the NCAA. One of them, which is an expansion of a previous charge in the original NOA the school received in January 2016, charged the school with a lack of institutional control and failure to monitor the conduct and administration of the athletics program — an allegation Bjork said will be challenged once the university issues its response.

“I feel terrible for our players and staff who have to handle the consequences of the actions of a very few,” Freeze said. “Unfortunately, these penalties are necessary for our program to be responsible and move forward. While it is extremely difficult to ask current players to suffer penalties based on the actions of others, I agree with the decision to self-impose a one-year bowl ban by our university.”

Whether or not any other penalties are handed down remains to be seen. Ole Miss has 90 days to issue a response to the NCAA, which will then have 60 days to piece together a case summary before a hearing with the Committee on Infractions is scheduled. The committee has six weeks after the hearing to render its final verdict.

“Any behavior by my staff that is inconsistent with that commitment to do things the right way simply does not reflect the emphasis I personally place on NCAA compliance,” Freeze said. “As the record will show, I am constantly communicating to our compliance office, the SEC office, and industry leaders to make sure we are using best practices when it comes to doing things the right way. Contrary to the allegations, I have demonstrated throughout this entire process that I have a strong record of promoting compliance and monitoring my staff, and I look forward to presenting that evidence to the Committee on Infractions.

It will be just the second time under Freeze the Rebels will not participate in the postseason. Ole Miss made a bowl in each of Freeze’s first four seasons at the helm, including the program’s first Sugar Bowl victory since 1970, before stumbling to a 5-7 record this past season.