Ole Miss recruiting targets discussed the Rebels’ postseason ban. The self-imposed sanction won’t affect future recruiting classes as much as one would think.
It’s an awkward time in Oxford, Mississippi right now.
We learned on Wednesday the NCAA concluded its investigation of the Rebels’ football program. What it yielded includes a list of allegations — some of which will be contested — and a self-imposed postseason ban. The latter will cost the university approximately $7.8 million in SEC postseason football revenue.
With the allegation against Ole Miss of a lack of institutional control, there are presently deeper concerns than recruiting, but it is certainly something to consider.
How will this affect the Rebels on the recruiting trail?
Off the top of the head, one might expect the wheels to come off. But that isn’t the case. The fact remains Ole Miss’ postseason ban is currently set for only one year, meaning the Rebels will be forfeiting a bowl game berth for the 2017-18 season.
The reality is the 2017 recruiting class is already signed, sealed and, for the most part, delivered. So, unless the NCAA were to grant those players a free release from their NLIs and let them seek opportunities elsewhere — like it did for Baylor’s signees last year — then they can all expect to be in Oxford next season.
That means at its current state, Ole Miss’ postseason ban only physically affects the recruits who have already signed their NLIs and current players on the roster.
As far as future recruiting classes, those prospects aren’t too concerned at this time. Campus Insiders spoke with a couple players being targeted by Ole Miss for the 2018 recruiting cycle, and they echoed the sentiment.
“If it’s just a one-year bowl ban, that’s not gonna affect my decision too much because I’ll still be in high school,” said Jett Johnson, a 3-star linebacker from Tupelo, Mississippi.
A problem that could arise, though, is a potential extension of the ban. If the NCAA decided to add to the duration of the self-imposed sanction and make it two years without bowl eligibility, then an effect would be felt by the players in the 2018 class.
That wouldn’t sit well with blue-chip recruits like 4-star running back Asa Martin.
“If it’s just a year, then that doesn’t bother me too much,” Martin said. “But if it’s extended, then I don’t know about that.”
What you can bank on is continued negative recruiting practices by opposing coaches. But those, however, have been used against Ole Miss for quite awhile now. Given the Rebels’ finish at No. 29 in the team recruiting rankings for 2017 (per Scout), it’s hard to imagine them feeling much more of an impact if the NCAA decides the self-imposed ban is harsh enough. There isn’t much left to be said that hasn’t already been uttered, texted or dropped in a direct message.
Recruiting is sales, which, like most things, is all about relationships. Freeze, who Johnson still holds a high opinion of despite the latest events, knows that as well as anyone.
“I still believe they are good folks,” Johnson said of the Ole Miss coaches. “I have high respect for all of them. I’ll go where God puts me. That is one thing I love about coach Freeze. We’ve actually had a conversation about faith. I think he’s a good guy. I honestly do. Ole Miss has recruited me the hardest, hands down.”
And that comes from a kid who grew up cheering for Mississippi State.
When asked if his image of the Rebels’ staff was altered, Martin followed suit with Johnson.
“No, not at all,” he said. “Everybody makes mistakes.”
Martin is the No. 1-ranked halfback in the state of Alabama (Decatur), and he’s the No. 14 halfback in the country. If a player of his caliber isn’t fazed by a one-year postseason ban, don’t expect the majority of the others to be taken back.
And while Johnson doesn’t speak for all in-state prospects being targeted by the Rebels, it is a sample. Most likely, he isn’t alone.
What is happening in Oxford isn’t ideal, to say the least, and there may be further repercussions to come. But, for the time being, Ole Miss’ presence on the recruiting trail won’t be affected that much more by these allegations or the postseason ban.