Ole Miss Football: NCAA Investigation Has Already Done Damage

The NCAA Investigation into the Ole Miss Rebels football team is taking longer than most fans would like. However the damage from the investigation has already been done before any sanctions are handed out.

The Ole Miss Rebels football team has been in investigative limbo. The NCAA investigation into the Rebels football team has been going on for approximately three years. The Athletic Department, coaches, players, and fans have all been waiting for a conclusion.

Everyone has a hypothesis about what is going on. A lesser fan base from another team waits like vultures near a dirt road hoping to pick over the carcass of the Ole Miss program. While other fan base’s just hope that the NCAA investigation can keep the Rebels near the bottom of the SEC West. Ole Miss fans just simply want it to be over.

However, the damage from the investigation has already been done. Anything else will just add salt to the existing wound. It is possible that this has been the NCAA’s plan all along.

Current Team

During the SEC Football Media Days in Birmingham, Coach Hugh Freeze stated that he didn’t believe the NCAA investigation was affecting the locker room. Unfortunately, there was no way the constant presence of investigators asking questions and snooping around didn’t play on their psyches.

By no way are we making excuses for the losses that have occurred this season. However constantly being called cheaters and liars weigh on a young man’s mind. They’re having to constantly wonder whether this season will be wasted because of the impending NCAA decision.

These young men have twitter accounts. They see all the chatter from wannabe social media journalist from other schools. They receive tweets from other lesser fan bases warning them of impending doom. How many times can a kid be accused of cheating and taking money before it takes it toll?

These 18-21-year-olds expected this to be a fun year, but all they’ve heard about is what will happen to their beloved program. That kind of pressure makes it easier to lose focus. It becomes easier to have a short fuse with teammates. These are things we’ve recently seen on the sideline. Although they are not usually indicative of a Hugh Freeze-coached team, the pressures may be getting to the players.

Recruiting

Since the NCAA investigation hinges on fact that Ole Miss was able to recruit high-end talent to Oxford, it appears serendipitous that their delay may affect that area the most. The investigators arrive on campus after the famed 2013 recruiting class that finished 10th according to Scout.com.

Since then the Rebels have always finished in the top 20. It all culminated in a fifth-ranked recruiting class this past February. However, the 2017 recruiting has dropped off tremendously. Currently, Scout.com has our class ranked #56. October saw a few recruits de-commit from Ole Miss.

The most damaging was that of Willie Gay out of Starkville. The highly touted linebacker was high on the Rebels board because they have a present need in that position. By living in Starkville, I’m sure he hears his fair share of conspiracy theories as to the fate of the Ole Miss program. That combined with interest from other schools has most likely caused his decision to de-commit.

Coach Freeze and the coaching staff has always been great closers in the recruiting game. They are hoping to do well again. However, this hanging cloud of the NCAA investigation has made it tough. Especially when lesser programs and their social media minions are willing to make up news in order to sway recruits from going to Ole Miss.

Lasting Effects

When you combine this poor season with the effects the negative recruiting from other teams, the damage is done. The damage to the recruiting aspect of the football team could take two years from which to recover. The most difficult part of the football team’s growth has been developing depth. This dip in recruiting will stunt that growth in-depth.

Although much of the talk by the media on the NCAA investigation has been based on conjecture, Ole Miss’ reputation has taken a hit. Personal vendettas by a couple of national writers have poisoned the well of reasonable thinkers. Coach Freeze has done nothing but proven to be a good guy. But those who are not fans of the program have chosen to ruin his reputation.

Things like that damage the program. Good reputations take years to recover but minutes to destroy. For the sake of football games, lesser fan bases have decided to attempt to destroy the reputation of a school, a coach and many players. The NCAA has decided to be complicit in this destruction by purposefully remaining silent and moving slowly.

The NCAA has the ability to end the speculation by making a ruling. Whether it be for better or worse, the ruling will allow the Rebels to make the next step toward normalcy. If the goal for NCAA is to ensure fair competition between member schools then it is failing Ole Miss.

Their slow response is affecting Ole Miss’ ability to be competitive on the field of play and on the recruiting trail. The wait is chipping away at the Rebels ability to be viable on the field in future years.

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, the NCAA’s goal has been too slow down and weaken Ole Miss’ growth. They led this investigation from the opening premise that the Rebels must have cheated. They have dug too far in; leaked too much inside information, and made to much of a stand for them to just walk away. They have to damage the program some way.

They have succeeded. The NCAA has slowly and methodically succeeded in what they and other fan bases have wanted to happen. They’ve hoped for a stop in Ole Miss success. This year’s record and this year’s recruiting ranking has given them a victory. Hopefully, it will be over soon and the Rebels can get back to building up the best program in the State of Mississippi and becoming a leader in the SEC.

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