Attorney: Case with UM’s Shea Patterson ready to be decided

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson’s request to the NCAA for immediate eligibility, will receive no further response from the University of Mississippi, the under-NCAA-probation school from which he transferred, according to his lawyer, Thomas Mars.

The case is ready to be decided, Mars said.

Now it’s a wait-and-see as to when the NCAA will make a decision regarding Patterson, who has been practicing this spring with the Wolverines and seeking to pay this fall. Ole Miss last week filed an objection to Patterson’s appeal submitted to the NCAA by Michigan’s compliance department.

Patterson contends he was lied to by former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, members of the football staff and athletic department personnel. He believes he was misled during the recruiting process in 2016 regarding the breadth of the NCAA violations.

More: Transfer issue goes much deeper than UM’s Shea Patterson case

Two days ago, Ole Miss received thorough responses from Patterson to questions from the NCAA case manager. Per NCAA rules, Ole Miss was given 10 days, until April 27, to comment or offer further remarks in opposition of Patterson being immediately eligible to play at Michigan.

“This morning, Ole Miss notified the NCAA — which in turn notified Michigan — that Ole Miss had ‘nothing to add’ and had said that the NCAA should proceed with making a decision by applying its bylaws, guidelines, and applicable precedents for granting waivers of the “year-in-residence” requirement,” Mars told The Detroit News on Wednesday.

“Therefore, the case is ready to be decided. The timing of the NCAA’s decision is a matter of the staff’s discretion, so there is no timetable for when a decision will be made. I’m confident, however, that the staff will not take any more time than is necessary to come to the right decision.”

Mars is supremely confident this response from Ole Miss bodes well for Patterson.

“I could be wrong, by my interpretation of the message that Ole Miss sent back to the NCAA this morning is, ‘We’re done fighting. Just grant Shea a waiver and get this over with,’” said Mars, who also represents five other Ole Miss transfers.

More:Kirk Herbstreit on Shea Patterson: 'Let the guy ... play'

Mars represented former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt in a defamation suit against the school settled last year and put the university in a position to issue a public apology it said it would never make. Ole Miss apologized last October for spreading lies that NCAA violations took place under Nutt’s watch as head coach.

Patterson, transferred from Ole Miss, currently under NCAA probation and slapped with a two-year bowl ban, last December. He and his former Ole Miss teammates who also transferred, believe they were misled by Freeze.

Last week, Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said in a statement the school had “no choice” but to file an objection to Michigan’s request to the NCAA for Patterson’s immediate eligibility. Michigan’s compliance department handled the initial request to the NCAA.

Mars, who had reportedly predicted that Ole Miss would “stick their head in the fan-blade five more times” before all the appeals waivers are concluded, dismantled Ole Miss’s objection to Patterson.

“If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought Ole Miss hired Pinocchio to write its response to Michigan’s waiver request,” Mars told The News last week.

The Detroit News filed an open-records request to the University of Mississippi under the Freedom of Information Act for Ole Miss’ response to Michigan’s waiver appeal for Shea Patterson. It was rejected with an email explanation Wednesday.

“Although the general policy is that public records are available for inspection, there are a number of exceptions and/or exemptions for non-disclosure,” Robert Jolly, the University of Mississippi’s assistant general counsel, said in an email. “One such exception/exemption provides that records that are confidential or privileged under federal law are exempt from disclosure.”

Jolly cited the The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) and indicated the records requested are educational records protected from disclosure under federal law.”

More:Shea Patterson's attorney rips Ole Miss for objection

In the meantime, Patterson responded to the NCAA case manager’s follow-up questions. Mars indicated further documentation was submitted by Patterson to support his statement. The NCAA received these responses on April 9.

“The case manager sent Shea’s answers and the additional supporting documents to Ole Miss two days ago (Monday, April 16th) and, per the NCAA rules, gave Ole Miss ten business days (until April 27th) to comment or offer any additional materials in support of their opposition to Shea being allowed to play for Michigan this fall,” he said.

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel on Wednesday called the Patterson waiver appeal situation “a process”. He said he did not know the status of the request, saying, “it’s with the NCAA.”

"We continue to work on it as we need to, and monitor where it is (and will) respond when we need to respond to additional conversations the NCAA has,” Manuel said. “Then we’ll move it forward.

"Sometimes these things take longer than others. We’re doing the work we need to do."

While there has been considerable movement to have the NCAA consider altering the transfer rule, Manuel would not comment on what direction the NCAA should go with changes.

"How it impacts the analysis of this waiver, I don't know,” Manuel said. “My understanding is (for the Patterson appeal) they're going off the current rule and trying to understand all of the facts around this particular case, as they have with all other individual cases."

Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN college football analyst, weighed in on the situation when asked by The Detroit News during a conference call Tuesday. He said he does not understand the holdup in clearing Patterson.

“Let the guy, let him play,” Herbstreit said. “I don’t know what the issue is. I have no idea what we’re waiting on.”

Herbstreit said college football players who transfer from a program under NCAA probation should be able to immediately play for their next school.

“These guys should be able to leave a program that’s in disarray and be able to transfer out and be able to go and right away be able to join a program and be able to hit the ground running,” Herbstreit said. “I feel bad that he’s still dealing with some of that stuff.”