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Ole Miss Saga: Lawsuit Filed

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DRAMA ESCALATES …

Over the weekend we wrote on the escalating war between the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the football program at the University of Mississippi (a.k.a. Ole Miss).

Our view?  It certainly seems to be a case of ideologically motivated selective enforcement on the part of the NCAA.  Beyond that, it strikes us as further evidence of the need to totally reinvent higher education (and its attendant athletics empires).

In the more immediate term, though, it’s also a high-stakes court drama …

As we noted in our previous post, Ole Miss backers believe the NCAA improperly granted immunity to at least one Mississippi State University football player in exchange for his testimony against the Rebel program and its socially conservative head coach, Hugh Freeze.

The working theory in Oxford?  That the NCAA is ignoring serious wrongdoing on the part of the Mississippi State program – and other Southeastern Conference (SEC) schools – because it loathes Ole Miss and wants to force Freeze from his job.  In fact, SEC sources tell us Freeze’s status is very much a determining factor in this process.

“If Freeze resigns the penalties won’t be that bad – if they fight them the NCAA is going to lower the boom,” one source told us.

To be clear: Ole Miss clearly broke some rules, and the school’s administration has already self-imposed penalties as a result of those misdeeds (including a one-year bowl ban and the loss of several scholarships).  The question?  Whether the NCAA is being overly harsh on a school that openly flaunts its Confederate lineage and a coach who zealously touts his Christian faith – two things which obviously run counter to the NCAA’s increasingly liberal world view.

Also up for debate, apparently?  Some of the allegations raised by Mississippi State players who were granted immunity to trash the Rebel program.

According to The (Mississippi) Clarion-Ledger, an Oxford-based athletic apparel store – Rebel Rags – is suing Mississippi State players Leo Lewis and Kobe Jones for “defamation, slander, conspiracy and commercial disparagement stemming from false statements made to the NCAA.”

The outfitter has been accused of providing improper benefits to football recruits – specifically $2,800 worth of free merchandise – allegedly arranged through an Ole Miss booster and former Ole Miss staffer Barney Farrar.

Rebel Rags, Ole Miss and Farrar all deny this allegation – and claim they have the paperwork to support their position.

According to Rebel Rags, this allegation was made on the basis of testimony provided to the NCAA by Jones and Lewis – the latter of whom is embroiled in a “pay-to-play” saga.

According to a report from Neal McCready of Rivals.com, “Ole Miss, per multiple sources, possesses a recording, and has given the SEC a copy, of Lewis’ mother asking Ole Miss for money and detailing incentives she received from other programs, including Mississippi State.”

In his response to the NCAA, Farrar referred to a Mississippi State player – believed to be Lewis – of being “lured into this witch-hunt by his own head coach so he could escape NCAA charges himself.”

Freeze’s statement to the NCAA also references this alleged recording of Lewis’ mother discussing the benefits her son was offered by other SEC schools.

Obviously if the NCAA were to ignore something like that in order to compel Lewis’ testimony against Ole Miss over a few thousand dollars worth of apparel – that would be a very big deal.  If the allegations made by Lewis were false, it would be an even bigger deal.

Stay tuned …

We will continue to follow this case very closely given some of the whispers surrounding the Clemson University program and its devoutly evangelical head coach, Dabo Swinney.  We will also follow it as a case study in the need for an across-the-board privatization of America’s higher education system.

“The NCAA is propping up a heavily taxpayer-subsidized system that flouts the free market in favor of a modern day slave market,” we wrote in our initial treatment of this narrative.

Whatever school you support, it’s time for this system to be set free to pursue its destiny in the private sector.


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