Ole Miss football has been complete garbage for most of the last six years, at least according to the NCAA’s latest, useless sanctions. College football’s governing body finally handed down a ruling in a long disciplinary process against the Rebels, and the school now has to vacate 33 of the team’s wins over the last half-dozen seasons. That includes Ole Miss’s iconic 23-17 win over Alabama in 2014, which famously saw Rebels fans rip down the goalposts at Vaught–Hemingway Stadium and tour them around Oxford.
Previously, the NCAA had ruled that Ole Miss committed 15 so-called “Level I” violations, which it defines as follows:
Substantial recruiting, competitive or other advantage [or] substantial impermissible benefit
The NCAA’s panel on infractions also ruled that the school had no institutional control and created “an unconstrained culture of booster involvement in football recruiting.”
The school had already received a postseason ban for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, as well as three years of probation (ending in 2020). The only piece of the puzzle that was missing was the vacating of wins, most of which came under former head coach Hugh Freeze (who resigned in 2017 after a bizarre scandal that involved him calling escorts from his Ole Miss phone), whose record with the Rebels drops from 39-25 to 12-25 after Monday’s ruling. Previous head coach Houston Nutt, now with CBS Sports as an analyst, also vacated six wins from 2010 and 2011.
The most famous of the ineligible players that caused these sanctions is current Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, who played at the school from 2013 to 2015. You may remember Tunsil from the overblown pre-draft brouhaha surrounding a video of him smoking marijuana from a gas mask.
More relevant to the Rebels’ current situation is the fact that Tunsil was arrested in 2015 on a domestic violence charge, after he got into a physical confrontation with his step-father, Lindsey Miller. It was Miller who later accused Tunsil of NCAA rules violations, leading to the NCAA investigation that kicked off this disciplinary process. (Because Tunsil was suspended for seven games in 2015, no wins from that season will be vacated. That means that Ole Miss keeps the Sugar Bowl trophy from that season.)
Vacating wins is the NCAA’s favorite punishment for these violations, which speaks to how toothless it really is. Nobody actually takes vacated wins seriously, as Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork made clear at a town hall meeting on Monday night:
It’s the last part of this process. In a way, it’s just a piece of paper, because you saw those games.
We did see those games, and no amount of ret-conning will take away the euphoria fans in Oxford felt after beating Nick Saban. And the NCAA can’t even do the vacating wins thing right: even though they technically finished with a 1-5 record in 2013 after the sanctions, Ole Miss will not vacate the Music City Bowl win from that year, as Tunsil did not play in the game.