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Appeals committee upholds findings and penalties for former Ole Miss assistant athletics director

The NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee upheld findings that the former Ole Miss assistant athletics director acted unethically when he arranged for prospective student-athletes to receive free merchandise and lodging during visits to the university and was involved in improper cash payments to the prospective student-athletes and their families. The committee also upheld the former assistant athletics director’s five-year show-cause order.

The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions found that members of the football staff knowingly committed recruiting violations and arranged for impermissible booster contact and involvement. Specifically, the former assistant athletics director acted unethically when he arranged for boosters to provide prospective student-athletes between $13,000 and $15,600 in cash payments, including $10,000 to one prospect, as well as lodging, meals and transportation. In addition, the assistant athletics director provided false and misleading information during his interview.

In his appeal, the former assistant athletics director argued the findings were based on statements from a biased, untrustworthy witness and the Committee on Infractions should not have used information from the witness since there were contrary statements from other parties.

The former assistant athletics director also contended that the show-cause penalty should be set aside because an email that described alleged events outside of the infractions case was shared at the infractions hearing and that email undermined his credibility. Even though the Committee on Infractions determined the email was not relevant to the case, the former assistant athletics director believes the introduction of the material was prejudicial and constituted a procedural error.

Download the Nov. 2018 University of Mississippi Former AD Infraction Appeals Decision

In response, the Committee on Infractions argued the findings in its decision are supported by credible statements from multiple individuals, phone records, video and text messages. It also explained that all parties were given access to all pertinent information and no procedural error occurred when findings of recruiting violations were made. The Committee on Infractions argued that the violations were severe and intentional in nature, so prescribing a five-year show-cause order was appropriate.

In its decision, the Infractions Appeals Committee stated it did not find a basis to determine the violations found by the Committee on Infractions were contrary to the information contained in the case record. The Infractions Appeals Committee noted while the former assistant athletics director gave information that could support a different result for the free merchandise violation, he did not provide any specific information to refute the findings related to free lodging, cash payments or unethical conduct.

The Infractions Appeals Committee was concerned by the introduction of information the former assistant athletics director described as potentially inflammatory, but it ultimately determined the former assistant athletics director did not demonstrate how the purported procedural error impacted the reliability of the information contained in the case record. Because of this, the Infractions Appeals Committee found the prescription of the show-cause order was not an abuse of discretion.

The members of the Infractions Appeals Committee who heard this case were Ellen M. Ferris, associate commissioner for governance and compliance at the American Athletic Conference; W. Anthony Jenkins, attorney in private practice; Patti Ohlendorf, committee chair and special advisor in the office of legal affairs at Texas; and Allison Rich, senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at Princeton.