Ole Miss Playing Ineligible Player a Reminder Institutional Control is a Myth

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJuly 10, 2013

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze
Ole Miss head coach Hugh FreezeDaniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

See, Ole Miss' success in Year 1 of the Hugh Freeze era actually was tainted!

Well, maybe not.

Reserve cornerback Carlos Davis will be forced to sit six games in 2013 after it was learned that as a freshman in 2012, the walk-on reserve played six games while academically ineligible.

According to the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-LedgerOle Miss self-reported the NCAA violation after Davis played while, without the school’s knowledge, the ACT was reviewing his test scores. The testing center ultimately canceled those scores, making Davis a non-qualifier and ineligible for competition.

Davis didn't tell the program of the ACT review, which put Ole Miss in a precarious position. Had the program or NCAA discovered that the school had knowledge of Davis' situation, it could have been forced to vacate all wins in which Davis played.

According to the report, Davis' scores in English, reading and science jumped 10-12 points, which he insisted were obtained honestly. The NCAA initially declared him ineligible, but he was cleared last July and made the team in open tryouts during fall camp.

His situation is a reminder that, while "institutional control" is a virtue the NCAA holds dear, true institutional control is like a unicorn or Sasquatch.

It's a myth.

It's unattainable. 

As meticulous and thorough as compliance staffs are—and they are, despite the obvious joke that was just put on a tee for people who dislike the SEC—something always slips through the cracks.

Ole Miss posted the nation's eighth-best recruiting class in the nation in 2013, according to the 247Sports.com composite index. That class included the nation's No. 1 player Robert Nkemdiche, No. 4  player Laremy Tunsil and the nation's top junior college player Lavon Hooks.

The sudden recruiting success, coming off a 7-6 season for a program that's hardly considered a national power, raised quite a few eyebrows—so much so that Freeze issued a request on Twitter, asking anyone with knowledge of recruiting violations to contact the school's compliance department. That request resulted in 85 emails but no proof of wrongdoing, according to the Clarion-Ledger.

Davis' academic ineligibility is actually quite surprising considering one of Freeze's stated goals when he took the job prior to the 2012 season was to clean up what had become a disturbing academic situation under former head coach Houston Nutt.

“I knew that there were some issues, but probably found out it was a little tougher than what I thought it was when I got here,” Freeze told ESPN.com in May 2012.

All of which goes to show, no matter how hard programs work to stay on the straight and narrow, it's impossible to fully control a program.