University of Mississippi Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and Athletic Director Ross Bjork struck a defiant tone in a press conference about today’s NCAA ruling over recruiting violations in the football program.
Vitter announced earlier today that Ole Miss will “vigorously appeal” the 2018 postseason ban, which the NCAA levied in addition to the university’s self-imposed ban for 2017. Bjork said the appeal will be launched “right away.”
Bjork also said there are “other aspects of the case that we will also appeal, and we will determine the specifics of those matters in the next few days.”
“It is clearly an excessive punishment, and we are outraged at the unfair characterization of our football program and the university culture involved in athletics,” Vitter said.
Vitter rejected the NCAA’s finding of lack of institutional control. “We do have institutional control, as those controls are how we discovered many of the violations,” he said.
Bjork also seemed to address the concerns of some fans and alumni who believe the university did not fight back hard enough against the NCAA investigation.
“When the facts did not support allegations or we thought the process was unfair, we challenged the NCAA,” Bjork said. “We indicated our disagreement in very forceful and strategic aspects of evidence by numerous filings, letters and push-back over the past few years.”
When asked bluntly if the NCAA is corrupt, both Vitter and Bjork pointed to a shift in the infraction committee’s approach to the investigation, a change that led to the university being kept in the dark about vital information, they said.
“I think something happened, quite frankly, about a year and a half ago,” Vitter said. “This was before the draft night of 2016 (when Laremy Tunsil appeared to admit to receiving money from UM coaches during his collegiate career). The course of this investigation changed. The entire conduct went from one of cooperation to one where we were shut out, where information that should have been obviously pursued, that we would certainly have noticed and followed up on, was not. By the time these facts became known to us, that information was no longer available because of the time-sensitive nature.”
Both administrators declined to offer details about the change, but Bjork added, “We strongly disagree with the tactics used by the enforcement staff to keep us isolated in the final months of the investigation. This will also be a basis for our appeal.”
Vitter said his “heart breaks” for the football players who “displayed such resolve and focus” this past season, “despite knowing there would be no postseason opportunities for them. Now the NCAA has unfairly punished these young men who have already been through so much. We will fight for them and appeal.”
Bjork confirmed that rising seniors with the Rebels’ football program can transfer to another university due to next season’s bowl ban, but he said he was not aware of any players who plan to leave. He added that he was aware of efforts by other universities to poach Ole Miss players. “That is already happening,” he said.
Vitter also said he fully trusts Ross Bjork to continue to lead Ole Miss’ athletics department.
Rick Hynum is editor-in-chief of HottyToddy.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.