Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork released a statement through Twitter, which was meant to assure the “Ole Miss family” as well as warn those who are tampering with its football players.
The release comes less than a week after the NCAA handed down further punishment to the football program stemming from its five-year investigation, including fines and an additional 2018 bowl ban. During a news conference addressing the NCAA’s decision on Friday, Bjork said that anyone contacting players with multiple years of eligibility to transfer was doing so illegally and that they were “tracking” that information.
On Wednesday afternoon, Bjork doubled down.
“We will not allow outside influences to define who we are, and we will use every avenue available to hold those accountable who tamper with our student-athletes,” he wrote. “Our great University has been through a lot over the past few years, and we are focused on building upon the strong foundation that is already in place.”
On Tuesday, ESPN reported that Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson, wideout Van Jefferson and safety Deontay Anderson were scheduled to visit Michigan over the weekend. All three received permission to contact.
According to the Clarion-Ledger, three other players have asked for and received permission to contact other universities: defensive back Jalen Julius, linebacker Jarrion Street and wide receiver Tre Nixon.
Bjork wrote in his statement that “Coach Luke and I know the Ole Miss family is anxious” given the NCAA Committee on Infractions decision last week and the “recent news regarding a handful of current players.”
Bjork and chancellor Jeffrey Vitter vowed last week to fight the NCAA’s decision and mount a vigorous appeal. Vitter called the handling of the investigation “grossly unfair” and said that over the last year and a half of the investigation he felt as if the school was being left in the dark, specifically regarding the testimony of Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis. Bjork said that while rising seniors could be freely contacted to gauge their interest in transferring, it did not apply to those players with multiple years of eligibility remaining without permission. He warned on Friday that, “The poaching is already happening.”
In his statement, Bjork attempted to calm the fan base.
“We can assure you that we are being proactive with each player and their families, and we are communicating with them on a daily basis,” he wrote. “Our focus is on their well-being while also making sure that we protect the present and future of our program. The Ole Miss Football Program is bigger than one person, and we want our players to know that they can, and will be part of something special.”