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Ole Miss responds to amended NCAA Notice of Allegations, challenges failure to monitor, lack of institutional control charges

Ole Miss publicly released its response today to the second round of charges levied against the football program as part of the NCAA’s long-running investigation, including failure to monitor the coaching staff against head coach Hugh Freeze and a lack of institutional control.

The school contested both allegations, arguing that it has satisfied the four pillars of institutional control, which require adequate compliance measures to exist, that those measures are appropriately conveyed to those who need to know, that they’re monitored to ensure they’re being followed and that the school take swift action once a violation has been committed. It also argued that Freeze, based on testimony and supporting records, has met expectations to emphasize and promote compliance and to implement necessary monitoring.

“Because an institutional control charge was not included in the 2016 notice based upon substantially similar facts, it appears this charge rests on the increased number of allegations, which has never been – and should not be – this Committee’s focus,” part of the school’s response read. “Instead, the question before the Committee in evaluating the institutional control charge is whether the University had appropriate policies and procedures in place at the time of those violations, and if so, did the University implement and enforce those policies.”

The full response can be viewed here.

In all, Ole Miss partially or entirely refuted six of the nine new charges (the lack of institutional control replaced the more limited failure-to-monitor charge that was part of the original Notice of Allegations), including allegations of cash payments from a booster referred to only as Booster 14 to a recruit who signed with another school referred to only as Student-Athlete 39 totaling up to $15,600 from April 2014 to February 2015.

Ole Miss didn’t deny that former off-field staffer Barney Farrar facilitated contact between boosters and the recruit. Farrar, who is named in four Level-I violations, was let go as the program’s assistant athletic director for high school and junior college relations in December after being placed on administrative leave in November.

The school’s response came three months after the NCAA issued an amended Notice of Allegations (NOA) that closed the four-year investigation but added the new charges, bringing the number of football-related allegations to 21 with 15 of those being classified as Level I, the most serious.

The NCAA has 60 days from the time Ole Miss filed its response to build its case summary before a hearing with the Committee on Infractions is scheduled. The committee has six weeks after the hearing to decided whether to accept the penalties the school has already self-imposed, which includes a bowl ban for the 2017 season, or add additional sanctions.

In response to the original NOA the school received in January 2016, Ole Miss docked itself 11 scholarships over four seasons starting with the 2015-16 academic year and went on three years probation. The school also disassociated involved boosters for a period of time, including Cannon Motors after the Oxford-based car dealership gave former offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil free use of three loaner cars and an interest-free loan on the purchase of another vehicle.

Tunsil made headlines again during last year’s NFL Draft when he told reporters after being selected 13th overall by the Miami Dolphins that he took money from an Ole Miss staffer after screenshots of a text conversation between he and assistant athletic director for football operations John Miller were posted on Tunsil’s Instagram account, but none of the new charges in the amended NOA were related to Tunsil’s draft-night claim.

Farrar’s name originally came up in the investigation when Miller referred Tunsil to him when Tunsil asked for money to help pay rent and family bills at one point during the conversation.

Other charges in the original NOA included academic fraud involving David Saunders and Chris Vaughn, assistants under former coach Houston Nutt, who coached the Rebels from 2008-11. Saunders received an eight-year show-cause penalty while Vaughn was fired as Texas’ defensive backs coach last year after the NCAA found that the two worked together to arrange for recruits to receive fraudulent ACT scores and then lied about it.

Current running backs coach Derrick Nix is accused along with Saunders and Vaughn of arranging for a recruit to receive impermissible housing, meals and transportation from a booster identified only as Booster 1 in the summer of 2010, but Ole Miss has contested Nix’s involvement in the arrangement, citing a lack of evidence.

Nutt, who hasn’t coached since being fired by Ole Miss, recently said he wants an apology from the school for the way it originally responded to the NCAA’s investigation into the program.