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Letter to the Ole Miss Family
Dear Ole Miss Family:
As you know, the University of Mississippi has been cooperating with the NCAA since 2012 on a review of potential NCAA bylaw violations associated with our Department of Athletics. After almost four years and more than 265 interviews with current staff, former staff, boosters, third parties, and student-athletes, the NCAA issued a Notice of Allegations (“NOA”) to the University on January 22, 2016, alleging violations in women’s basketball, track and field, and football. According to the NCAA enforcement process, the University had 90 days to formally respond, and we submitted our Response to the Notice of Allegations (“Response”) in April. Around that same time, another involved party requested and received a 30-day extension. Because that extension has now elapsed, we are releasing our Response and the NOA to the public.
The NCAA has alleged, and we agree, that serious violations have occurred. Most of the more significant violations resulted from either (1) intentional misconduct and efforts to conceal that misconduct by former employees who face unethical conduct charges and personal sanctions; or (2) actions of individual boosters who conducted themselves contrary to rules education provided by the University. For 27 of the 28 allegations, we agree that a violation of NCAA rules occurred; however, for several of those allegations we do not agree on all of the facts. For five of those 27 violations, we believe the violation should be classified differently (e.g., the violation is alleged as a “Level II violation” but we contend the violation should be classified as “Level III”).
In response to these violations, we have taken several corrective actions and we have self-imposed significant penalties. The NCAA Committee on Infractions (“COI”) will consider our Response as it determines whether to assess penalties in addition to the penalties we have already self-imposed. We based our self-imposed penalties on the COI’s decisions in other cases and the NCAA penalty matrix released in 2012.
The University’s cooperation with the NCAA throughout this process has been exemplary. In fact, the University self-reported or played a central role in discovering most of the violations. When employees or student-athletes failed to live up to Ole Miss core values, the University took decisive action, including terminating or disciplining employees and imposing scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions. The University also disassociated itself from representatives of Ole Miss’s athletics interests — boosters — who were involved in violations. The most serious violations involve academic misconduct that occurred in football six years ago and in women’s basketball almost four years ago. Before, during and since the issuance of the NOA, we have taken a proactive approach to compliance, rules-education, and monitoring. As our Department of Athletics has grown, so has our commitment to compliance. Since 2011, we have more than doubled our compliance staff and instituted more than 100 new compliance measures.
On the first day of the 2016 NFL Draft, new information came to light involving a former football student-athlete. That very night, the University and NCAA began a joint review to determine whether bylaws have been violated, and we hope this review will be concluded soon. To ensure fairness to all parties and pursuant to COI procedure, we have asked the COI to remove the hearing from this summer’s docket until this review can be completed and closed.
The Ole Miss family expects and deserves athletics programs that compete for championships, graduate our student-athletes, and operate with integrity. From the moment we learned about possible academic misconduct in women’s basketball in 2012 until today, the University has demonstrated its values, and we are a stronger University because of our decisive actions. We believe in our coaches, staff, and student-athletes, and you have our assurance that we will continue the pursuit of excellence consistent with the University Creed and athletics core values.
Jeffrey S. Vitter Ross Bjork
Chancellor Director of Athletics