Mississippi's football program won't participate in the postseason this year or in 2018 as part of the NCAA's sanctions levied against the school in the long-running rules violation case that included a charge of lack of institutional control.
In the latest development in the more than five-year ongoing case, the Committee on Infractions Friday came down fairly hard on Ole Miss. Most notably, the NCAA decided the one-year self-imposed postseason ban was not enough for the Rebels, who finished the regular season with a 6-6 record.
Ole Miss had hoped to avoid a postseason ban in 2018, but was hit with another year and plans to appeal the decision. The Rebels, who host SIU Sept. 8 next season, also lost two more scholarships, for a total of 13 over the last three seasons.
"We wish that this were over," Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork said. "But there is more work to be done and that work has already started."
The Committee on Infractions said the case was similar to other Ole Miss rules violations cases in 1986 and 1994 and that the school had an "unconstrained booster culture." The NCAA says six football staff members and 12 boosters contributed to the current violations.
"This is now the third case over three decades that has involved the boosters and football program," the panel said in its decision. "Even the head coach acknowledged that upon coming to Mississippi, he was surprised by the 'craziness' of boosters trying to insert themselves into his program."
Ole Miss had also self-imposed other punishments in anticipation of Friday's sanctions, including scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions. The NCAA largely accepted those penalties, but the big addition was the extra year of postseason ineligibility.
Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter believes the 2018 postseason ban was excessive.
"It is simply not warranted and based on fundamental flaws in the NCAA case and how the investigation was conducted," Vitter said. "We will vigorously appeal the additional postseason ban. It's clearly an excessive punishment and we are outraged at the unfair characterization of our football program and university culture involving athletics."
Bjork added that citing a rules violations case from more than 30 years ago "is not applicable to our current case."
NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn wrote in an email that Ole Miss has 15 days to notify the appeals committee of its intent to appeal. Once the appeals committee acknowledges the request, the university has 30 days to file the appeal.
Former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze will be suspended for two conference games during the 2018 season if he's employed as a head coach at another school. The ruling said that Freeze promoted an atmosphere of rules compliance, but that he failed to monitor his staff.
"While my hope is to be a head coach again as soon as possible, this restriction does not limit, in any way, my ability to serve as an assistant coach," Freeze said in a statement released through his lawyer's office. "I want to thank everyone who stood by me, including my family, my friends, and the University of Mississippi."
Several former Ole Miss assistants and staff members received show-cause restrictions, which hinders their ability to work for schools in the NCAA.
The stiffest penalty was for former staff member David Saunders, who received an eight-year show cause for helping arrange fraudulent ACT scores.