Allegations aimed at Ole Miss for providing impermissible benefits to football players, most notably former five-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, are not going away. Following an NFL Draft night fiasco and recent testimony from Tunsil's stepfather, it has only gotten hotter in Oxford, Mississippi, over the last few months.
In an extensive look at the Ole Miss situation published Wednesday by Sports Illustrated, Tunsil's stepfather, Lindsey Miller, went on the record to Pete Thamel detailing how the Rebels allegedly provided a variety of benefits to Tunsil and his family.
He summarized Ole Miss' process as "like that movie Blue Chips," referring to the 1994 movie that showed how a basketball team's booster program arranged for impermissible benefits for some high-level recruits, including paying for one family to move into a new home and arranging for a job for that player's mother.
"Among the things Miller says he told the NCAA: Ole Miss had an intricate system in which the school arranged for Tunsil and his family through boosters to get loans, money and free lodging at hotels and residences around Oxford. He claims he told the NCAA of benefits that spanned nearly three years," Thamel writes.
"Included among them: Miller says he told the NCAA that he and Desiree Polingo -- Tunsil's mother and Miller's now-estranged wife -- moved from Lake City, Fla., to the Oxford area in 2014 along with Miller's two sons from a prior relationship thanks in part to financial assistance from Ole Miss coaches and boosters."
Before continuing to break down Miller's allegations, it is important to note that he is not an impartial party. In addition to admitting that he received some of these benefits, Miller has been at odds with Tunsil -- and eventually Polingo -- over the last year.
The estrangement began when Miller and Tunsil got into a physical altercation at his home last June. Tunsil claims he was defending his mother, while Miller claims he was defending himself from an attacking Tunsil. Miller accused Tunsil of "riding around with football agents," which he also claims began the argument. The NCAA met with Miller in the wake of these accusations, and Tunsil eventually served a seven-game suspension to start the 2015 season.
Miller and Polingo, who are reportedly estranged at this time with Polingo filing for divorce, disagreed about the incident then and Miller's claims now.
"[Miller] continued receiving his pension, child support and military benefits. Why he keeps telling people that Ole Miss promised us something or did something wrong is beyond me, and frankly makes me very angry," Polingo told SI through an attorney.
This is where things get interesting regarding Miller's allegations and Polingo's denials. Miller claims he has proof in the form of "text messages, e-mails and Facebook messages" along with "bank and financial records," some of which he provided to SI to view and all of which he says he turned over to the NCAA. He also says conversations with the NCAA occurred "everyday ... for two to three weeks" and lasted for more than 100 hours, including some marathon sessions that would go for as long as half a day. Miller further claims that the NCAA visited him in Mississippi "four or five times" to verify his statements.
What will happen going forward remains to be seen.
After initially downplaying an NCAA Notice of Allegations and delaying its public release, relating that most of the allegations were either not related to football or occurred before current coach Hugh Freeze's tenure, Ole Miss went ahead and shared the notice in May. The NCAA found 28 total violations by the school's athletic program, including 13 by Rebels football, nine of which occurred under Freeze.
However, this notice was served and released prior to additional Tunsil allegations surfaced through a social media hack the night of the NFL Draft, Tunsil later admitting to the allegations and Miller's additional discussions with the NCAA.
The "four-year colonoscopy" that Freeze felt during the NCAA investigation appeared to be over, but it now looks like the Rebels are in for round two, which may be even more uncomfortable than the first go-around.