Players wanting to leave Ole Miss are reportedly preparing to point to former Rebels coach Hugh Freeze as a reason why they should get immediate eligibility at their new schools.
According to CBS Sports, six transferring Ole Miss players are in the process of compiling messages from the coach that show he attempted to minimize and deflect the NCAA’s allegations against the school. They’d then use those messages to show the NCAA why they should be granted immediate eligibility at their transfer destinations because they didn’t know the potential severity of any sanctions levied toward the school.
Freeze’s assertions as included in the players’ appeals could be a mitigating factor in the NCAA’s decision to waive the traditional year-in-residence rule.
Only one of the six transfers was not a member of the 2016 Ole Miss recruiting class. The NCAA’s original notice of allegations broke shortly before that National Signing Day, which was Feb. 3, 2016.
Ole Miss self-imposed a bowl ban for the 2017 season and the NCAA instituted a bowl ban for 2018 as part of its punishment against the school for boosters and staffers giving players and recruits compensation.
Freeze, who is currently unemployed, resigned from his position before the 2017 season after it became public that he had dialed an escort service from a school-issued phone and the school said it found a “pattern of conduct.”
The phone call to the escort was revealed as part of former coach Houston Nutt’s suit against Ole Miss. Nutt was the fall guy in Ole Miss’ early campaign against the allegations. The lawyer helping the players with their case to the NCAA is none other than Tom Mars, the lawyer who represented Nutt in his suit against the school.
One of the six players transferring from Ole Miss is quarterback Shea Patterson, who is heading to Michigan. In the report, Mars cited a message from Patterson to four-star wide receiver Tre Nixon. Both players signed with Ole Miss on Signing Day in 2016. Patterson was the star of that Ole Miss recruiting class.
“Here, you have a recruit who has lots of other options,” Mars said of Nixon. “He’s questioning, in a very intelligent way, why doesn’t the school say more, reveal more. Here’s a player who’s doing due diligence.
“Then he reaches out to Shea Patterson, who not having any reason at all to distrust [Freeze], … repeats verbatim what Hugh Freeze had told him in his office.”
The NCAA is set to examine possible changes to its transfer policy in June, likely after the cases of the Ole Miss players are decided. We’re guessing the players will be immediately eligible to transfer, because it seems the sanctioning body will move to adopt a transfer policy with immediate-eligibility clauses over the summer.
It would be crazy if the NCAA denied the cases of the former Ole Miss players and went ahead with new transfer rules that allowed some players to have immediate eligibility at their new schools.
Baylor and Iowa State put forth a proposal earlier this week that would eliminate the waiver process in a situation like the one the Ole Miss players are in. Per the Big 12 proposal, players could transfer freely with immediate eligibility if their coach left or was fired or their program faced sanctions.
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