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Saturday December 16th, 2017 11:45AM

Ole Miss disputes NCAA lack of institutional control charge

By The Associated Press
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OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — The University of Mississippi disputes the NCAA's charges of lack of institutional control and failure to monitor by head coach Hugh Freeze, along with allegations of a $10,000 cash payment to a recruit.

The Ole Miss football program released its response Tuesday to a second NCAA Notice of Allegations in less than two years. The first notice alleged 13 violations while the second added eight more, bringing the total to 21. Fifteen of them are classified by the NCAA as Level I, which the governing body deems most serious.

Ole Miss, which disputes several of the new allegations, said no "reasonable compliance or monitoring system" could have caught or prevented the Level I violations.

"According to the University's research, an institutional control violation has never been triggered by the mere existence of an underlying violation or even multiple, serious violations," Ole Miss said in the response posted on the school's web site. "Instead, it is a unique, stand-alone allegation that requires a big-picture review of the University's commitment to compliance with NCAA rules.

"The University's systems and efforts have met and continue to meet the appropriate standards."

The school challenged several of the new allegations, including one involving a booster providing a $10,000 cash payment to a recruit, saying that there isn't "sufficient credible and persuasive factual support" for the NCAA's Committee on Infractions to find a violation. The response also questioned the same unnamed recruit's contentions that he received six or seven payments of between $500 and $800.

Ole Miss also disputed allegations that another booster provided several thousand dollars in free merchandise to three athletes, citing witnesses who denied the violations occurred and evidence it believes contradicted them.

Some of the charges date back to the tenure of previous coach Houston Nutt, who was fired in 2011, but most of the case involves conduct that happened under Freeze. The sprawling case involves alleged academic, booster, and recruiting misconduct.

Ole Miss has already self-imposed several penalties, including a postseason ban for the upcoming season, three years of probation, scholarship losses and recruiting restrictions.

The NCAA can accept Ole Miss' self-imposed penalties or add to them after a hearing in front of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions that will likely take place in the summer or fall.

The Ole Miss response said Freeze has emphasized compliance during his tenure and that he shouldn't be penalized.

"This case does not involve a head coach who facilitated or participated in violations or otherwise ignored red flags associated with them," the university said.

The Ole Miss response was the latest step in a lengthy NCAA investigation that's lasted nearly five years. The original case began in 2012 after a university probe discovered academic and recruiting misconduct involving the women's basketball program, but the investigation quickly spread to unrelated issues with football and track and field.

All three sports received their original Notice of Allegations in 2016. The women's basketball and track and field portion of the case was resolved later that year, but the football case remained in limbo while the school investigated more allegations involving former left tackle Laremy Tunsil.

Tunsil made headlines during the 2016 NFL draft after a bizarre video of him smoking from a gas mask-bong contraption was posted on his Twitter account just before the selections began. There was also a post on Tunsil's Instagram account showing an alleged text conversation with a football staff member about arranging payment for bills.

Tunsil said both accounts were hacked, but acknowledged following the draft that he accepted money from a coach while he was at Ole Miss.

The school says none of the new charges are related to the draft night incident, but the NCAA still sent an amended NOA to the school in February alleging eight new violations on top of the 13 violations from the first portion of the investigation.

___

More AP college football: http://collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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