Fans of the Ole Miss Rebels hang on the goalpost while celebrating the victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide on Oct., 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. OFans of the Ole Miss Rebels hang on the goalpost while celebrating the victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide on Oct., 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Ole Miss beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images) (Joe Murphy)
By Creg Stephenson | [email protected], AL.COM
Ole Miss will vacate 33 football victories from the 2010-16 seasons — including the milestone 2014 win over Alabama — for using ineligible players, according to a report Monday by Rivals.com.
RebelGrove.com quoted Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork as saying during a “town hall meeting” with fans in Cleveland, Miss., that the Rebels will vacate all wins from 2010 (four wins), 2011 (two), 2012 (seven, including the Birmingham Bowl) and 2016 (five). All victories from 2013 except the Music City Bowl (seven wins) and all from 2014 except Presbyterian (eight) will also be vacated.
The vacation of wins is part of the NCAA infractions case that was completed in December 2017. Ole Miss also received a two-year postseason ban (ending in 2018), and was stripped of 11 scholarships over four years, while former head coach Hugh Freeze received a two-game SEC suspension and former staffers Barney Farrar and Chris Kiffin were given show-cause penalties.
Vacated wins do not become losses (or wins for the opposing team), but are removed from the record books as if they never took place. The list includes a 23-17 victory over eventual SEC champion Alabama in Oxford in 2014, after which Ole Miss fans tore down the goal posts at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
“It’s the last part of this process,” Bjork said. “In a way it’s just a piece of paper because you saw those games.”
Former All-SEC offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil — who played at Ole Miss from 2013-15 — was among the players declared ineligible after the fact for having received impermissible benefits. Tunsil was suspended by the NCAA for the first seven games of the 2015 season, which is why none of the Rebels’ 10 victories from that season — including the 43-37 win over eventual national champion Alabama in Tuscaloosa and the Sugar Bowl win over Oklahoma State — must be vacated (Tunsil also missed the 2013 Music City Bowl and the 2014 Presbyterian game due to injury).
Twenty-seven of the vacated wins come off Freeze’s record, which drops from 39-25 overall and 19-21 in SEC play to 12-25, 6-21. Freeze is now head coach at Liberty.
Ole Miss was charged with 21 violations — 15 of them considered major, with some dating back to the Houston Nutt era (2008-11), but most related to Freeze’s tenure. Among the allegations are improper benefits given to Tunsil and — most spectacularly — allegations of thousands of dollars in cash and other merchandise given to former recruit Leo Lewis, who now plays at Mississippi State (Ole Miss disputed, or flat-out denied, many of the charges).
Freeze resigned in July 2017 for personal conduct reasons tangentially related to the NCAA case, as school officials were made aware of calls to an escort service in Freeze’s phone records after attorneys for Nutt subpoenaed them. Nutt sued the school after accusing Freeze and Bjork of falsely characterizing the NCAA allegations to media members as being mostly related to Nutt’s tenure (the two parties later settled out of court).
Ole Miss has gone 6-6 and 5-7 in two years under Matt Luke, who was given the full-time job prior to the 2018 season. The Rebels will be eligible for postseason play again this fall.