Ole Miss gets 2-year bowl ban, other penalties in NCAA case

Cedric Mason- Touchdown Alabama Magazine

"We wish that this were over", Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork said.

Former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze will be suspended for two conference games during the 2018 season if he's employed as a head coach at another school.

The university says it will "vigorously appeal" the 2018 postseason ban, calling it "excessive", in part because the school self-imposed a postseason ban for 2017.

Bjork confirmed that rising seniors with the Rebels' football program can transfer to another university due to next season's bowl ban, but he said he was not aware of any players who plan to leave.

Ole Miss had self-imposed a bowl ban for 2017, along with a reduction of 11 scholarships over a total of four years, prior to the news.

The NCAA accepted all sanctions Ole Miss imposed on itself and added an additional bowl game ban in 2018.

The NCAA panel noted that this was the third case in 30 years involving Ole Miss boosters breaking rules, and said that even Freeze told them, "upon coming to MS, he was surprised by the "craziness" of boosters trying to insert themselves into his program". A dozen boosters and six former staffers were implicated by the NCAA in arranging impermissible benefits, including cash payments, free auto rides to campus, free hotel rooms, food, and Rebels apparel from an Oxford-area sports merchandise store. "I want to thank everyone who stood by me, including my family, my friends, and the University of MS".

The Rebels will also be on probation for three more years through November 30, 2020 and must pay a financial penalty of about $179,000. Some of them are more significant than others, ranging from former staffers allegedly fixing ACT scores to get recruits qualified for the football team to recruits allegedly hunting on boosters' private land.

The complicated case consisted of 21 alleged violations, including 15 that were Level I, which the NCAA considers the most serious. Freeze also resigned from the school when it was discovered he made several phone calls to an escort service on his university-issued cell phone.

Matt Luke guided the Rebels to a 6-6 record this season after taking over for Freeze.

Bjork said the university would begin the appeals process for the postseason ban as quickly as possible.

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