Report: Mississippi State billboards reported as NCAA violation

By Jerry Hinnen | College Football Writer

We're not sure if anyone ever declared a winner in the great Mississippi billboard wars of January 2011, but the NCAA rulebook has declared that Mississippi State was, in fact, the loser.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports that State's "Play With the Best" billboard advertisement -- which appeared in cities across the state, most notably Ole Miss' Oxford -- was self-reported to the SEC as a violation of NCAA bylaw 13.4.3.1 in February. School officials reportedly became aware of the violation after State assistant athletics director for marketing Chad Thomas said that the billboards were being used as a recruiting tool.

We can't imagine how anyone would reach that conclusion:

The bylaw in question forbids any promotional material "designed to solicit the enrollment of a prospective student-athlete."

The billboards were removed within a month of their appearance, with possible violations circulating as a cause, and per the Daily Journal State officials said the matter would be looked into. But they also said that the billboards had simply come down on schedule.

State has announced a handful of self-imposed penalties:

From now on, the compliance office must review all future billboards for content and location before they are purchased; no coaches or sport-specific personnel will be consulted or have input on billboards or any other marketing-related activities; and Thomas will be required to attend an NCAA regional rules seminar on recruiting and enforcement.

The SEC has not yet responded to State's report and seems unlikely to add any further sanctions. So are those punishments too high a price to pay for the needling of Rebel fans? (Thomas admitted at the time that the Oxford billboard was "strategically placed.") Should there even be punishments, since every athletic department billboard in the country could be interpreted as "designed to solicit the enrollment of a prospective student-athlete," some Ole Miss billboards ("The Road to the Pro Bowl Goes Through Ole Miss") most definitely included?

We're not sure. But we do know that the way relations are between the two schools at the moment, minor violations or not, this won't likely be the final skirmish to play out on the billboards of Mississippi.

Image via the Clarion-Ledger.

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