NCAA Appeals Committee releases decision to Ole Miss: Unofficial visits restriction overturned, postseason ban upheld

Published 12:19 pm Thursday, November 1, 2018

The case is officially closed.

Ole Miss’ football program received its final ruling from the NCAA’s Infractions Appeal Committee (IAC) on Thursday, closing a six-year investigation.

The ruling brought mixed news for the Rebels, who sought to remove or reduce some of the tougher sanctions issued by the NCAA Committee on Infractions (COI) last year. In the ruling, the IAC overturned the biggest sanction levied by the COI, lifting the restrictions on unofficial visits by recruits. However, the IAC upheld the two-year postseason ban.

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With the IAC upholding the COI’s initial ruling for a 2018 bowl ban, Ole Miss will be ineligible for postseason play should the Rebels hit six wins this season. Currently, Ole Miss holds a 5-3 record, with four games remaining in the 2018 football season.

The COI released their public infraction decision, which included the unofficial visit limitations and postseason ban, on Dec. 1, 2017. Ole Miss began the appeal process almost immediately, submitting a written notice to the NCAA two weeks later.

The process for the University’s appeal case lasted nearly 11 months.

“Today, the NCAA released the Infractions Appeals Committee (IAC) decision, bringing the nearly six-year process to an end,” a letter co-signed by Ole Miss chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and athletics director Ross Bjork read. “The university prevailed in its appeal of the most onerous sanction, the penalty restricting unofficial visits. According to the IAC, ‘the Committee on Infractions (COI) abused its discretion when prescribing penalty VII.5.c (unofficial visit restrictions) in that it was based in significant part on one or more irrelevant or improper factors.’ The IAC overturned the penalty entirely, clearing the way for the football program to move forward and continue recruiting at a high level.”

The restrictions on unofficial visits by prospective recruits was unprecedented in its ruling. It limited prospective recruits to only one unofficial visit to Ole Miss’ campus per academic year. With the restriction now overturned, it allows the football program to recruit to its fullest extent.

When Ole Miss received the Notice of Allegations in 2016, the program self-imposed a penalty, prohibiting all unofficial visits for five weeks in the fall of 2016 and from Sept. 1 through Oct. 19 in the fall of 2017. The COI added on the restriction of unofficial visits for the duration of Ole Miss’ probation period, which lasts through the 2020 regular season.

“While we are pleased by the IAC’s finding that the COI abused its discretion with respect to the unofficial visit penalty, we remain disappointed by the remainder of the ruling, which upheld a 2018 postseason ban and findings of lack of institutional control and recruiting inducements,” the letter continued.

With the postseason ban being upheld, it will be the second consecutive year Ole Miss’ season will conclude with their yearly meeting against Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. This year’s edition of the rivalry will be played on Nov. 22 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.