The NCAA's Infractions Appeals Committee vacated the Rebels recruiting restrictions but upheld the 2018 postseason ban after reviewing the sanctions imposed on the program in 2017.
The NCAA released the Infractions Appeals Committee's (IAC) decision regarding Ole Miss's appeal of the sanctions the program received for recruiting violations under former head coach Hugh Freeze and Houston Nutt. The committee vacated the recruiting part of the NCAA sanctions, which restricted unofficial recruiting visits to Ole Miss, but upheld the postseason ban for 2018.
"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 (e.g., failure to accurately apply the NCAA legislation related to the prescription of infractions core penalties)," the IAC announced Thursday.
The IAC added that per Bylaw 19.9.6, the Committee on Infractions should have included an explanation of the basis for prescribing penalties different than those typically set up in such circumstances. By failing to include such an explanation in its decision, the committee "misapplied the NCAA legislation in prescribing the additional limitation of the number of unofficial visits."
The IAC's decision to overturn the penalty in its entirety clears the way for the Ole Miss program return to regular recruiting processes.
The NCAA investigation into Ole Miss and the program's recruiting violations began in 2012. The investigation was reopened after the 2016 NFL draft when former Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil admitted to receiving money from Rebels coaches. New violations were flagged throughout 2017, resulting in a self-imposed postseason ban by Ole Miss for the 2017 season. Other self-imposed punishments included three years of probation, numerous scholarship losses and recruiting restrictions. Along the way, Freeze was forced to resign after calls to escort services were found on his university phone records.
The university officially received a two-year bowl ban, multiple scholarship and recruiting restrictions and a fine for a multitude of infractions from the NCAA in December of 2017. Ole Miss appealed the sanctions and received news of the committee's decision Thursday.
"While we are pleased by the IAC’s finding that the COI abused its discretion with respect to the unofficial visit penalty," the University said in a statement. "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."
Ole Miss’s statement went on to say that "the NCAA enforcement model is 'broken' and ill-equipped to handle complex cases." The school added that it believes the case was "adversely impacted because of it."
Ole Miss's statement concluded: "This ordeal is now over. Our attention must now be on the present and the future of our football program, and we are calling on the Ole Miss family to help finish this season strong. With the freedom to recruit and promote all that the University of Mississippi has to offer, Coach Luke and his staff will keep building on the momentum we have in our program."
The Rebels return to action on Saturday, Nov. 3 against South Carolina.