The allegations of NCAA violations against Ole Miss were thrust into the mainstream during the NFL Draft, when top offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil's stock went tumbling after videos of him smoking a bong with a gas mask contraption leaked on Twitter. After the video's release, Tunsil's Instagram account posted text message conversations that appeared to show him asking assistant athletic director John Miller for money to pay his family's rent and utility bills.
One of the central figures in the larger Tunsil/Ole Miss story is the star tackle's stepfather Lindsey Miller. Miller and Tunsil were involved in an altercation last June, which led to Miller accusing Tunsil of being with agents on that night. Tunsil wound up sitting out for seven games this season, amid concerns about his eligibility.
Today, Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel posted a long story about the ongoing investigation into Ole Miss football, which includes details from Miller. He goes into details about the things he has shared with the NCAA, which he says he met with every day for two or three weeks, including one day that involved 12-13 hours of meetings.
Miller says he spoke to the NCAA for more than 100 hours. He says he told investigators about Ole Miss arranging connections with boosters that led to money, free hotel rooms and lodging.
The NCAA has spent much of the last year trying to corroborate Miller's claims. Miller says NCAA investigators have come to Mississippi to visit with him "four or five" times, a sign of how serious the organization is taking the case. Miller says NCAA director of enforcement Chris Howard has visited Mississippi to meet with Miller and lead investigator Mike Sheridan has made multiple trips to the state. Miller says his interviews with NCAA investigators include marathon sessions on FaceTime and meetings at both a McDonald's in Oxford, Miss, and later in that restaurant's parking lot when he and Sheridan grew worried about being seen together.
"I got kind of tired of them," Miller says of the NCAA. "It was everyday for, I'm going to say, two to three weeks. (One day) we spoke for 12 or 13 hours, I took a lunch break and I took a dinner break. I cooperated fully, but it was a hassle."
Miller shared Facebook conversations that he says took place with defensive line coach Chris Kiffin, Tunsil's lead recruiter.
In one Facebook message, dated Feb. 8, 2013, Miller appears to write to Ole Miss defensive line coach Chris Kiffin: "Plz do all the u you said to help me and desiree and my 2 sons I have been ole miss biggest fan 2 times he committed to ga I was there foor u be there for us when its time ok."
Kiffin appears to have responded: "You know I will!"
Miller provided SI with the Facebook messages, but they could not be independently verified.
Miller claims that Kiffin set he and Tunsil's mother up with an Ole Miss booster, who paid for hotel rooms and arranged for the family to stay at residencies around the Oxford area, though those allegations are not included in the NCAA's Notice of Allegations against the program.
Due to the nature of the relationship between Miller and Tunsil, which includes a lawsuit filed the day before the NFL Draft, you can definitely take Miller's allegations with a huge grain of salt, although it does appear that the NCAA considers him credible and is taking his side of the story very seriously.
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