Shea Patterson, the former Ole Miss quarterback who announced Monday he is transferring to Michigan, likely will have to wait until early next year to find out if the NCAA will grant his transfer wavier that would allow immediate eligibility.
The key for Patterson and other Ole Miss players who are seeking transfers in light of the recent NCAA punishment, which includes a bowl ban in 2018 on top of the self-imposed ban this year, is whether the NCAA finds Ole Miss acted with “egregious behavor” when it allegedly misled recruits about sanctions.
If that is how the NCAA rules, players like Patterson, who will be a junior next year, likely can transfer without penalty. Transfers who are not graduates must, per NCAA rules, sit out the season before having eligibility restored.
Thomas Mars, the Arkansas-based attorney who represented former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt in his case against the school, is representing several Ole Miss players hoping to transfer without penalty of sitting out a year.
“At this point, there’s no room for Ole Miss to deny it unlawfully kept the NOA (NCAA Notice of Allegations) it had just received under wraps for five months while the school misled prospects and their parents about how the NCAA investigation would likely impact the future of the football program and the goals and dreams of the student-athletes who ended up signing with Ole Miss under false pretenses,” Mars told The Detroit News.
“At its core, the question these transfer requests will present to the NCAA staff is whether a carefully planned and orchestrated misinformation campaign by a member institution, that involved standardized misrepresentations to the sports media and to an entire class of top-rated high school prospects and their parents — both over the phone, in their homes and during official visits — constitutes ‘egregious behavior’ within the meaning of the waiver rule.”
Mars said the Ole Miss players who are transferring may not know the outcome from the NCAA until late January or early February.
He filed a lawsuit against Ole Miss on behalf of Nutt that alleged a breach of contract and a break of duty and of good faith in response to an alleged misinformation campaign that former Ole Miss coach Huge Freeze and athletic department officials engaged in after receiving the NOA in January 2016.
It was that misinformation campaign in which Freeze and Ole Miss engaged with recruits that is at the heart of what could sway the NCAA in the favor of players like Patterson, who was ranked the No. 1 quarterback in the 2016 class.
According to Nutt’s court complaint filed in Oct. 2017, during the Jan. 29-30, 2016 recruiting weekend, Yahoo columnist Pat Forde wrote on Jan. 29 that NCAA had charged Ole Miss with numerous violations. The complaint spells out how Freeze, the athletic director and other officials then orchestrated a misinformation campaign that included prospective recruits.
Ole Miss this month lifted all restrictions for football players to seek transfer. Patterson and two teammates, Deontay Anderson and Van Jefferson, visited Michigan last weekend.
In the case of Patterson, Michigan must prepare a package with information that supports the premise of Ole Miss’ “egregious behavior.” Michigan sends this package to the NCAA, which forwards it to Mississippi.
Ole Miss then has several options — it can support what Michigan prepared, oppose it, express neutrality or not respond at all. Once the NCAA has Ole Miss’ position on this, it moves forward with its decision-making process.
“If Ole Miss supports the transfer waivers, this could be a very easy decision (by the NCAA),” Mars said.
The NCAA rules on “egregious behavior,” he said, are flexible enough to cover multiple situations.
“It’s safe to say that the drafters of the NCAA rule could not possibly have foreseen or ever imagined what occurred during the Ole Miss investigation,” Mars said. “Since there are no prior similar cases for the staff to rely on as precedent, the staff will have to make its decision on a clean slate.
“In other words, in reviewing these transfer requests, the staff might say the same thing about ‘egregious behavior’ that justice (Potter) Stewart said when the Supreme Court was trying to define pornography: ‘I know it when I see it.’ Considering what respected sports journalists have written and what the COI (NCAA Committee on infractions) had to say about Ole Miss and media leaks, one might reasonably ask, ‘If this isn’t egregious behavior by a member institution, what is?’ ”
Patterson told the Toledo Blade in a story published Wednesday he feels good about his chances the NCAA will grant his waiver.
“It’s in God’s hands,” Patterson, a Toledo-native, told the paper. “From what I’m hearing, I’m pretty sure that I will win that and be able to play next year. If I don’t, I’ll work as hard as I can learning the offense and I’ll be playing the year after.”
Michigan vs. South Carolina
Kickoff: Noon Jan. 1, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
Records: Both teams are 8-4