Sometimes, teams that vacate wins end up with the odd distinction of going into the NCAA record book with a record like 0-1 or 0-2, since the wins get wiped from the record as if the games never happened but the losses are allowed to stand.
For the University of Mississippi’s football program, however, the 33 wins Ole Miss is being forced to vacate between 2010 and 2016 will drag its record from 39-25 in those seasons from 2012-16 under coach Hugh Freeze down to 12-25.
Freeze’s predecessor, Houston Nutt, sees his Rebels record drop from 6-18 to 0-18 in the affected 2010 and ’11 seasons, bringing the grand total record in the official book to 12-43 instead of 45-43.
The wins are from games in which Ole Miss used ineligible players stemming from a massive scandal involving “Level I violations” and “impermissible benefits to players,” according to Rivals.com.
— Ole Miss Rebels Fans (@OleMissRebsFans) February 12, 2019
The school has already been hit with massive punishments that, along with Penn State’s punishments in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal, are as close as the NCAA has come since SMU in the 1980s to dropping the infamous “death penalty” on a college football program.
Seven Ole Miss wins from the stretch have already been vacated as a result of a separate investigation involving offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, who was the subject of an SBNation documentary covering his experience with the big-money corruption machine behind Mississippi football.
Ole Miss received a two-year postseason ban, three years of probation, and four years worth of reduced scholarships for its program as a result of the NCAA investigation.
Freeze resigned in disgrace from Ole Miss in 2017 and is now head coach at Liberty University.
Ole Miss Athletic Director Ross Bjork pointed out the fundamental absurdity of “vacated wins” in a town-hall meeting with fans in Cleveland, Mississippi, according to ESPN.
“It’s the last part of this process,” Bjork said. “In a way it’s just a piece of paper, because you saw those games.”
This is the same fundamental logic behind every other set of vacated wins in NCAA revenue-sport history, whether it’s in football or basketball.
You can say those games never happened and retcon the history books like you’re an overzealous DC comics editor messing with Superman’s backstory for the 55th time, but unless you’ve got one of those memory-wipe flashlights from the “Men in Black” movies, you can’t take the victories out of the memories of the fans.
Two of Ole Miss’ bowl wins remain intact, because their ineligible players did not participate in those games: The 2013 Music City Bowl and 2016 Sugar Bowl trophies remain in the school’s trophy case.
Ole Miss does, however, lose out on its trophy from the 2012 BBVA Compass Bowl.
A fine argument could be made here that “crime doesn’t pay” if in fact Ole Miss committed massive violations in two seasons in which the Rebels won just six games, actually getting worse between 2010 (4-8) and 2011 (2-10, which got Nutt shown the door.)
And the one season in which they were good enough to make a bowl that’s played in January, they didn’t have any wins vacated because the ineligible guy who was supposed to make them a national title contender didn’t even play.
All the same, the program is still reeling from the effects of the sanctions. Ole Miss went 6-6 in 2017 and 5-7 in 2018, and those scholarship reductions won’t have them back at full strength until 2021.
But you can’t wipe the memory of a true-blue fan who saw those games, and in the minds of the public who don’t pay any mind to vacated wins, Hugh Freeze is still a guy with a .609 winning percentage, not a .324 mark.
Liberty University sure seems to think Freeze is a guy who’s more likely to win them 60 percent or more of their games, after all.
So chalk this one up to Shakespeare; it’s much ado about nothing.
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