How much do these Rebels want to remain Rebels? We're about to find out
Ole Miss has been embroiled in the NCAA investigation, wondering about its punishment. Friday morning, it became all too real.
Ole Miss was hit hard despite its cooperation and self-imposed penalties. The penalties include: another year with a bowl ban, three years of probation (expires after 2020 season), 13 more scholarship losses and show causes for every coach named in the allegations. Former head coach Hugh Freeze received a two-game suspension for any program that wished to hire him for the 2018 season.
Ole Miss fans had become fairly numb to talk of the investigation. It had taken so much time, fans were even joining in on the jokes. Feelings were mixed on what the punishments would be and how severe.
The NCAA answered that question, severely.
Ole Miss has already suffered from the scandals, once top-10 recruiting classes under Freeze now in ruins, a self-imposed bowl ban despite six wins and an Egg Bowl victory this season.
The scholarships will hurt. The probation will linger. The bowl ban, even though only one extra year, will hurt.
The question everybody is asking is: Will this open the floodgates for current Rebels players to transfer? The question isn’t necessarily will they, but how many, and, most important, who?
Has Shea Patterson thrown his last pass for the Rebels? Has A.J. Brown caught his last touchdown?
In the coming days, the loyalty Ole Miss breeds and the love the current roster has the for the university will be tested. It is one thing to preach family, but a completely different thing for college athletes with only two or three years of eligibility to accept the fact that they may never experience a bowl game, much less have any shot at an SEC championship or be able to compete with the SEC West.
Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork said Friday that rising seniors will be eligible to transfer and play elsewhere immediately. All others, notably rising junior such as Patterson and Brown, would have to go through a normal transfer process.
Even if it means sitting out a season for underclassmen, the ability to compete for titles is a door some will want to walk through.
It opens the door for stars to move on. Patterson already had his freshman season destroyed by having his redshirt pulled in a desperate attempt to make a bowl in 2016. Ole Miss didn’t make a bowl game, then this season Patterson got hurt and watched his backup Jordan Ta’amu take the starring role. Why would Patterson stay at a place that won’t reward his talents on the college level?
If he does, it’s because he wants to be a Rebel. Same with Brown, the star receiver, perhaps the best in America, statistically no doubt the best in the SEC.
It is more complicated than Twitter trolling.
There had to be some suspicion in the minds of the players that this was coming down. Yet they all went to bat for Matt Luke to have his interim coaching tag removed. Brown was one leading the charge. Why do that if the intent is to leave?
Brown will play in the NFL. That isn’t the case for most of the roster. Football is going to be over. It has now unfairly become a decision between loyalty and love of Ole Miss or have a chance at a full college football experience.
Ole Miss is still going to be Ole Miss to its fans. It’s a sacred football program and a national brand – though going through tough times – to those who truly are Rebels. But even true Rebels deserve the chance to play in bowl games and be on a team that is able to compete at the highest level. SEC football players were stars on the prep levels and have always strived to be the best.
Ole Miss can no longer afford them the opportunity to be the best. Family is a great word, a great motto especially in hard times and a great thing to be a part of. But if you perceive that your family is taking away more opportunities than it is giving you, there is no shame in looking for a new family. Ole Miss’s family is being tested by intense pressure.
Players who leave will be labeled, unfairly, as not loyal. Players who stay will be Rebel family, but without the college football rewards they could reap elsewhere. The feeling toward the NCAA hammer or how it came about is irrelevant. The actions of a few have made it a lose-lose situation for players caught in a web they did not weave.
Patterson, Brown, Greg Little, DK Metclaf, they now have to consider the option of going to a school that will give them every opportunity they deserved to have at Ole Miss.
Ole Miss is crippled. Whether they stay and help the Rebels learn to walk again will tell the world exactly how much they want to be an Ole Miss Rebel.
Not fair. Neither is life.