Ole Miss will have a highly anticipated hearing before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions scheduled for September 11th,2017. Ole Miss has been charged with the dreaded Lack of Institutional Control. The university contests this charge along with the severe Failure to Monitor charge levied against their former head coach, Hugh Freeze.
On top of Ole Miss having the future of their football program be decided by the COI, they must play a football season too. Ole Miss has road games against Alabama, Auburn, and California. The Ole Miss offense is loaded, but their defense is faced with some major weaknesses at linebacker and free safety. Also, Ole Miss must navigate a season in the SEC West while on a bowl ban.
Recipe for Disaster
Interim Head Coach, Matt Luke, will have his work cut out for him. Luke must be able to keep players motivated through the adversity that is sure to come. He will have to be able to get the team ready to play after suffering some potentially devastating losses on and off the field. If their bowl ban is increased from one season to two, Luke will be faced with a daunting task; keeping numerous athletes, who will probably transfer, motivated to play every week.
The only potential silver-lining in a possible two-year bowl ban for Luke is that it would most likely increase his chances to land the gig on a more permanent basis. If Ole Miss is hammered, the job becomes much less attractive to this season’s version of P.J. Fleck. I’m just being realistic here, but no hot up and coming coach is going to pick Ole Miss, in that near decapacitated state. There are plenty of more attractive jobs available. I know the argument “Ole Miss has Shea Patterson, Greg Little, and other high-profile recruits, so it is an attractive job” is made often and well the argument is invalid. It is unrealistic to believe a healthy percentage of those kids won’t transfer to greener pastures, pun intended.
Now, let’s briefly go back to the mesmerizing off the field headlines. Hugh Freeze was forced to resign over a pattern of personal misconduct that did not meet the standards of being the Ole Miss football coach. This pattern involved calls to sensual massage parlors and escort services. Ole Miss has been tight-lipped on details in the case, but common sense suggests the pattern was damning. I mean, Freeze left nearly 17 million dollars on the table. Think about it this way, his agent Jimmy Sexton, probably the best agent in the business, and Sexton couldn’t get him a dime. For what it’s worth, Sexton was Houston Nutt’s agent when he negotiated Nutt’s severance package from Ole Miss. I know one thing, if I had a job that owed me nearly 17 million dollars it would take some horrendous discretions coming to light to make me give that up without a fight.
Finally, Ole Miss must conduct a coaching search once the season concludes. Ole Miss AD, Ross Bjork, said he will wait until the season’s end to hire a new coach. Many feel Matt Luke doesn’t really have a chance to lock down the permanent coaching gig at this moment in time, but he could become the poll favorite with a successful season on the field and the recruiting trail. Not many people gave Ed Orgeron a legitimate shot the be LSU’s permanent coach. However, that did not stop the rowdy Cajun from hijacking the job by working his way into the hearts of the Bayou Bengal fans.
The Ole Miss coaching search could go in several directions Each hinges on the result of their NCAA case. Bowl bans and player transfers will greatly impact the attractiveness of the Ole Miss coaching job. Not to mention, the outcome of the COI hearing will determine who conducts the coaching search. Right now, it appears Ross Bjork will be conducting the coaching search. However, if Ole Miss is found to have lacked institutional control then he could be handed a pink-slip.
Nonetheless, the coming months should be intriguing. The vast headlines surrounding Ole Miss will draw attention from around the country, as well it should. The drama surrounding this case is borderline unprecedented in the NCAA. Frankly, you could make like an 8 ESPN 30 for 30 mini-series about Ole Miss football’s peculiar predicament from 2013-2017.