Ole Miss football announces one-year postseason ban

OXFORD, MS (WMC) - Ole Miss football announced a self-imposed one-year postseason ban for 2017.

With the ban, the program will forfeit their annual SEC postseason revenue for 2017, which is estimated to be $7.8 million.

Chancellor Jeffery Vitter, athletic director Ross Bjork, and head coach Hugh Freeze made the decision to impose the ban in the midst of an NCAA investigation into the program that includes 21 football allegation charges.

An investigation began in 2012 into Ole Miss Athletics. In January 2016, the university received a notice of allegations involving women's basketball, track and field, and football. The women's basketball and track were placed on a three-year probation period in October 2016.

Wednesday, Ole Miss announced that the NCAA investigation of football has concluded, prompting Vitter, Bjork, and Freeze to impose the sanctions for 2017.

Bjork said the school has been investigating the allegations alongside NCAA since the night of the NFL Draft, when first round pick Laremy Tunsil admitted to taking money from the school.

However, Bjork said the school does not agree with all of the allegations from NCAA. He said the school has found that three allegations are credible. These include:

  1. A student-athlete went hunting near campus on private land owned by a booster during his official visit in 2013 and on occasions after he enrolled. This represents a Level III violations.
  2. Between March 2014 and January 2015, a former staff member arranged for lodging and transportation for prospective student-athletes and his friends on several visits to campus and transportation of another prospective student-athlete on one occasion. The total value of these incidents is $2,272. In addition, the football team allegedly provided $235 in free meals to prospective student-athletes and their friends. This represents a Level I violation.
  3. A former staff member knowingly committed NCAA recruiting violations when he provided false or misleading information to the institution and enforcement staff in 2016. This represents a level I violation.

A fourth allegation, Bjork said, is supported by some evidence, but the school does not believe all of the events happened.

In that allegation, a former staff member allowed and facilitated two boosters to have contact with prospective student-athletes with cash payments, and that the former staff member knew about the cash payments. The value of that exchange is between $13,000 and $15,600, according to NCAA. This represents a Level I violation.

The school said there is credible evidence that the contact occurred, but they are still evaluating whether there is enough evidence to support the alleged payments. The school will make a decision on the payments over the next 90 days.

The university plans to contest several other allegations in full, however. These include:

  1. A former staff member arranged for friends and family of prospective student-athletes to receive free merchandise from a store owned by a booster in 2014, 15, and 16. The value of these is $2,800 and represents a Level I violation.
  2. A current football coach had impermissible off-campus contact with a prospective student-athlete. This represents a Level III violation.
  3. A booster provided money, food, and drinks to a prospective student-athlete and his friends at a booster’s restaurant between March 2014 and January 2015. The value of this is between $200 and $600 and represents a Level I violation.
  4. An allegation that the head football coach violated responsibility legislation. While the school disagrees, Coach Freeze has not rebutted the allegations that he is responsible for his staff’s action. This is a Level I violation.
  5. The scope and nature of the violations demonstrate that the university lacked institutional control and failed to monitor the conduct of the administration and athletics program. This charge replaces a previous charge from January 2016 and represents a Level I violation that the school plans to contest.

Bjork said he takes full responsibility of any violations of the rules.

"I am saddened by all of the negative attention that has been brought on our great University by the seriousness of this case," Freeze said. "I feel terrible for our players and staff who have to handle the consequences of the actions of a very few."

The school will release their full notice and response when the NCAA files their response, which is expected to come in May. The NCAA will then have 60 days to write a case summary, followed by a hearing before a Committee on Infractions.

Watch the full announcement of the ban below:

Copyright 2017 WMC Action News 5.  All rights reserved.