Thursday night was supposed to be a banner night in the history of Ole Miss football.
The program had never sent three players to the NFL through the first round of the NFL draft, but former Rebels Laquon Treadwell, Robert Nkemdiche and Laremy Tunsil were widely considered sure-fire first-round draft picks.
Ole Miss made history.
Treadwell was selected 23rd overall by the Minnesota Vikings, Nkemdiche went 29th to the Arizona Cardinals and Tunsil—who was considered a possible top-five pick—fell to 13th overall to the Miami Dolphins.
Great for the Rebels, right?
Nope. Not even a little bit.
The reason for Tunsil's fall dominated headlines around the country and turned what was supposed to be an historic night for Ole Miss into an infamous one.
Here's more detail from Bleacher Report's Alec Nathan on everything that went down with Tunsil over a five-hour stretch last night. For the sake of brevity, here's a CliffsNotes version:
- A video of Tunsil smoking out of a bong with a gas mask on appears on his Twitter account shortly before the start of the draft.
- Tunsil drops from a potential top-five pick down to the Dolphins at 13, costing him approximately $13 million, according to Spotrac (h/t Bleacher Report).
- Screenshots appear on Tunsil's Instagram account of text messages allegedly between Tunsil and Ole Miss assistant athletic director for football operations John Miller in which payments for rent are discussed.
- Tunsil, clearly shaken by all that has gone on during what should have been the happiest night of his life, denies taking money from Ole Miss coaches in the post-draft press conference before then admitting that he did take money from coaches.
"Nah, I wouldn't say all that. I wouldn't say that." Tunsil said when asked if money exchanged hands (2:00 mark).
Later, that changed. When asked at the 2:45 mark of the press conference if money exchanged hands, Tunsil replied, "I'd have to say yeah. Yeah."
What should have been a banner night for the Ole Miss football program turned into a disaster. Not only was one of their own embarrassed publicly by somebody or a group of people with enough pent-up anger and hate to fill the Magnolia State, but the program—which already is under investigation by the NCAA—was accused of cheating on one of the biggest stages in American sports.
"Like we do whenever an allegation is brought to our attention or a potential violation is self-discovered, we will aggressively investigate and fully cooperate with the NCAA and the SEC," Ole Miss said in a statement according to Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
Confused? Tunsil sure is.
If you watch the video in full, you'll see that he's all over the place when the questions on whether he took money from coaches were asked.
The night was so bad that Nkemdiche—whose character has been called into question after being arrested in December 2015 for marijuana possession and fell out of an Atlanta hotel room window—was forced to defend his former teammate on his biggest night.
The current investigation into Ole Miss includes violations involving the former staff under head coach Houston Nutt and current head coach Hugh Freeze, some of which are likely to include the events that led to Tunsil's seven-game suspension to start the 2015 season, according to ESPN.com.
According to Ole Miss, that suspension was due to Tunsil taking impermissible benefits including the use of three loaner vehicles, a four-month promissory note for a $3,000 down payment on a car, lodging and an airline ticket. It made no mention of any of those benefits being provided by coaches.
This only adds fuel to the fire to the notion that Ole Miss is dirty, and that fire blazed on what should have been one of the best nights of Freeze's tenure.
Instead of Freeze selling his program as one that churns out first-round draft picks, makes the dreams of football players come true and allows players to become millionaires playing the sport that they love; Freeze and Ole Miss are on defense under a spotlight that is suddenly brighter than it ever anticipated.
The 2016 NFL draft won't be remembered as the draft that further launched Ole Miss as a college football superpower, it will be remembered as the one in which Ole Miss turned into a dumpster fire.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.