The video is about 21 minutes long, and probably best viewed in fast forward, without audio. Three very serious men in dark blazers, sitting behind a clean blue table, are reading apologies, looking for all the world like they wish they could strip off their blazers and head to The Grove for a julep.
Turns out the NCAA (think Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe in Mississippi Burning) has been and will be hanging out in Oxford, so the Rebels, bless their hearts, have decided to jump forward with a mea culpa in an attempt to hang on to the silly notion that one of these days, they are going to beat the Crimson Tide on the regular. Good luck with that.
Hence, the three blazers: Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor/Athletics and head football coach Hugh Freeze, architect of one of the best dang college football program rebuilds you ever saw. Coach Freeze, good old southern ball coach, arrived in 2011 like an Archie Manning 40-yard touchdown run back in the day: fast and sudden. Heck, they beat Alabama.
Soon after his arrival – very soon – his recruiting efforts brought a top 10 class to Oxford. This being the SEC, eyebrows raised ever so slightly, causing the coach to literally dare anyone to provide evidence of wrong-doing. Defiant, charismatic…he was Elmer Gantry with a whistle. The preacher/coach said, You want to turn us in? Well, here’s the compliance email address…good luck and God bless you.
And now he sits at the confession table with the others, looking either at a teleprompter, his prepared words in front of him, or both – saying that he is “saddened” and also reminding all that his program will persevere. As I was fast-forwarding and occasionally stopping, I heard the words “core values”, “integrity” and “love.”
The problem, of course, as it pertains to the NCAA vs. the Rebels, is determining who to believe. It’s been my position over, oh, the last 40 years or so, to not believe anybody ever about anything, except for Clint Eastwood on the porch in Gran Torino.
NCAA-Ole Miss is Hillary-Donald II, but with more passion and more at stake.
The NCAA is usually somewhat right and very slow to move; the schools they face in these showdowns are usually mostly wrong and move too fast. The NCAA enjoys the role of moral police, up until the point where morality starts blocking the road to the bank.
A very long time ago, the NCAA told us that SMU cheated. I didn’t completely believe the NCAA because, it’s the NCAA. I certainly didn’t believe SMU. The NCAA, per usual, had been late to the party; my friends and I had been talking about SMU for years before the NCAA showed up. SMU was cheating? Duh.
Same thing with Oklahoma back in the day: everybody, including your Aunt Vicky, knew about cars and late nights and spies in Norman. Everybody, it seems, but the NCAA. Do you believe the NCAA, or do you believe the Sooners of the 1980s? Broccoli or kale? Tornadoes or hurricanes?
More recently, the NCAA – after the fact, of course – made all kinds of accusations about USC. We’re going to take away Reggie’s Heisman! Houses are being bought by agents, and we’re not standing for it any longer! Did you believe the NCAA, or Pete Carroll’s Trojans? Root canal or wisdom tooth extraction? Kidney stone or diverticulitis?
And now, this. The NCAA is talking about hunting trips and money changing hands. The Rebels are saying they will fight any charges of “lack of institutional control,” and also hinting that there may be a recording of other schools doing bad, bad things. There may not be any sex in this sordid affair, but there will definitely be lies and probably videotapes. And all of us – save the NCAA – have been talking about this for years.
This will end as it always does; clumsily and with collateral damage. Scholarships will be lost. Recruiting at the school will not be as successful because Jimmy Football isn’t going to go to a school without knowing who the coach may or may not be, and whether or not he will get a chance to play in the Death Penalty Bowl. If the head coach loses his job, his replacement will come in promising that his new program will do things “the right way” and then he will eagerly hop onto the SEC merry go-round.
And at some point in the cluster that is an NCAA investigation, somebody will mention all of the flaws in the investigation – because there will be flaws in the investigation – and then, after about a week, all will be forgotten, and the NCAA will go merrily on its way, slogging ever-so-slowly toward its next morality play.
Who do you believe? I believe Clint Eastwood.