Right now there are more Ole Miss football fans in the sky is falling category than ever before. With the Freeze and NCAA situations many see no way out and believe our football program is headed for certain death and destruction.
Take a deep breath Rebel fans. We’ve been here before in the depths of despair like no other. But guess what? Ole Miss football came out of those situations and she will again. Let me give you some examples and for many of you, some of these occurred before you were a mere twinkle in your parents eyes.
So let’s take a trip down memory lane. Right after the highly successful career of Johnny Vaught came to and end, Ole Miss shocked everyone by hiring Billy Kinard over Bob Tyler prior to the 1971 season. It was a political maneuver as Billy’s brother Bruiser was the athletic director. After a successful 10-2 campaign in 1971 everyone thought it was a good hire.
All Good Things End
Ole Miss Rebels Football
However, in 1972 it all fell apart as the players did not get along with Coach Kinard. It was alleged he got into a fight with a player in the locker room at half time of the 1972 game versus Georgia in Jackson.
The Rebels finished 5-5 and did not go to a bowl after fifteen straight post season appearances. In 1973 the team got off to a slow start but we brought back Johnny Vaught and saved the season.
Ole Miss struggled with ups and downs from 1974 until 1983 when Ole Miss hired one of its own in Billy Brewer to bring back the glory days of Ole Miss football. Billy took his first team in 1983 to the Independence Bowl and we thought we are back on track. Between 1984 and 1988 we had our ups and downs with the highlight being the win over Alabama for their homecoming in 1988.
The 1986 team had a good year but the NCAA found recruiting violations and the Rebels were on probation in 1987. The 1989 season was the beginning of some really good teams for a few years and everything was good. So we thought. In 1989 Ole Miss had a winning season and with the motivation of fallen Chucky Mullins the Rebels won the Liberty Bowl over Air Force.
The 1990 season was even better as Ole Miss came with one game of winning the SEC and finished 9-2 and played Michigan on New Year’s day in the Gator Bowl. Ole Miss struggled in 1991 but the level of talent was improving with some really good recruits coming to Oxford. Of course, the 1992 Team finished 9-3 and had the best defense in the SEC.
Here Comes Trouble
The Ole Miss faithful were ready with the return to glory as Peyton Manning, the son of Ole Miss’s Archie Manning would take Ole Miss back to the Sugar Bowl. However, a storm was on the horizon and the NCAA was investigating Ole Miss and Billy Brewer for the second time. At the same time Brewer was running a “trap option” type of offense and that combined with the impending probation sent Peyton Manning to Knoxville and the Tennessee volunteers.
I still remember the day that Peyton committed to Tennessee. It was like a family member had died and Archie caught a lot of grief from Rebel fans. Prior to the 1994 season Billy Brewer was fired over the NCAA allegations and Joe Lee Dunn was the interim coach while we were waiting on our sentence from the NCAA. Of course, they dropped the hammer late into the season and it was devastating.
Consider these sanctions from the NCAA that were dropped on Ole Miss.
1. Public reprimand and censure;
2. Four years of probation;
3. Requirement that the institution develop a comprehensive
athletics compliance education program, with annual reports to the
committee during the period of probation;
4. Prohibition from participating in postseason competition in
football during the 1995 and 1996 seasons;
5. Prohibition from televising any football games during the 1995
6. Reduction by 12 in the number of permissible initial financial
aid awards in football for the 1995, 96 and 1996 & 97 academic
7. Reduction by 16 in the number of permissible official visits in
football during the 1995-96 and 1996-97 academic years;
8. Re-certification of current athletics policies and practices;
9. Dissociation of two representatives of the institution’s
athletics interests; and
10. Show cause requirement on the former head football coach for
Somehow We Recovered
Talk about a hammer. Of course, nobody thinks the current NCAA investigation will result in sanctions this severe. Regardless, we thought it would take ten years to recover from this. We were depressed and thought “We’re done.” Enter Tommy Tuberville in 1995. He held the team together and even with recruiting restrictions he landed the likes of Romaro Miller, Deuce McAllister and Terrance Metcalf. He had Ole Miss back into the bowls in 1997, not ten years.
We were not done and it was not over. Even though Tuberville left for Auburn, Ole Miss landed Eli Manning culminating in a 2004 Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma State. Read the sanctions above again. If Ole Miss can overcome those penalties, we will again in the current situation. Oh, remember the Ed Orgeron years of 2005 through 2007. Winless in the SEC in 2007? Of course, once again, we thought it would take years to come back.
What happened? Back to back Cotton Bowl victories in 2009 & 2010. Remember 2011? Again winless in the SEC, a 52-7 loss to Alabama and a 52-3 loss to LSU with both games being at home. Remember LSU taking a knee with six minutes to go? Again, it will take years to come back from the Houston Nutt era right? Nope! Hugh Freeze came in and led Ole Miss to back to back wins over Alabama in 2014 and 2015 and a Sugar Bowl victory over Oklahoma State. But what happened?
The NCAA is back and Hugh Freeze resigns over a scandal from calling escort services with his University phone. So now, we are waiting on the NCAA to levy the penalties and we have an interim coach in Matt Luke. Of course, this is very similar to 1994. So, again it will take ten years to recover right? The answer is no! We’ve been in this position before and we’ll bounce back.
A new coach will rejuvenate the fan base and we will get through this. We have before and we will again. Why? Ole Miss is a wonderful place. Coaches and administrators come and go, but Ole Miss will still be there. We will certainly take some lumps but we will be back and it will happen sooner than you think. History has shown that multiple times. Relax Rebel Fans…”This Too Shall Pass!” Hotty Toddy!