Andy Hodges

Reality will likely shatter hope for SEC fans over Tunsil

Everyone needs to take a deep breath and relax. Ole Miss isn’t going to get hammered over the Tunsil mess.

Laremy Tunsil’s freefall last Thursday started fans at opposing SEC West schools buzzing.

When the texts over money came out? Well, as Bret Bielema would say, it was an almost orgasmic experience for many SEC fans. Oh, and it appeared a large part of the media grabbed onto it and still hasn’t let go.

Relax. Take a deep breath.

Ole Miss isn’t getting the death penalty over any of this.

On Friday, sources within the Ole Miss athletic department were rolling their eyes over all of it. There was even a member of the NCAA’s enforcement division that said on the SEC Network it basically wasn’t a big deal. We’ll get to the money stuff in a minute.

That should have been the first clue.

Smoking weed isn’t that big of a deal any more. In fact, according to several in the NFL community, the actual act wasn’t what caused the big deal and the freefall from a Top 5 selection all the way to No. 13 on Thursday.

That’s becoming less of a big deal in our world these days.

No, the actual problem was the fact it came out on The Twitter just prior to the draft. Now THAT is a reason for teams to be concerned. Shoot, even the Dolphins, who selected Tunsil at No. 13, were concerned.

Fairly quickly, it started coming out that Tunsil didn’t, in fact, send out the tweet. His Twitter account was accessed by someone else and the video posted. Once that information circulated throughout the league, it was coming up on the Dolphins’ selection and they grabbed him.

Deadspin.com was contacted on April 12 by someone claiming to be Tunsil trying to sell the video of him in the now famous gas mask. They declined without negotiation.

As the website reported Friday, “We did nothing after that. We will pay for a good story (email us!), but a college kid smoking weed is not a story at all.”

Exactly. Only idiots flunk NFL drug tests for smoking weed. They know when the tests are going to occur unless they are already in the program and then it’s not as random as one would think unless you’ve already failed four tests. That’s the minimum before a suspension in the league’s program.

As it turns out, the Dolphins and Tunsil’s attorney have gotten to what they think is the bottom of the link behind all of this and it appears to be his former financial advisor. Tunsil fired him a couple of months ago, he was upset and decided to try and extract a little revenge. He caused up to about $7 million worth of damage.

Now the whole money issue.

On the surface it appeared Tunsil admitted he received money from Ole Miss. Everyone jumped on that. Fans of opposing SEC West schools nodded their heads, thinking they finally had the proof of what they suspected all along — the Rebels were cheating and now they had ’em.

The media started drooling all over themselves and, for the most part, haven’t stopped.

Friday, it came out that the money exchange did, in fact, happen. It happens with every college athletic program every single month.

And it’s legal.

The NCAA Assistance Fund allows schools to help student-athletes AND their families. That last part is very critical. As even NCAA folks admitted on radio and television Friday, the schools have extremely wide latitude in dispersing money from that fund.

Now that has led some to ask why Ole Miss didn’t just say that when all of this broke. The silence and the response of investigating it are about all the school could say.

Ah HA! has been the reaction of most opposing schools to that comment.

Again, take a deep breath.

According to some folks in Oxford, that was all part of the NCAA investigation with Tunsil, which was self-reported by Ole Miss and resulted in the tackle’s seven-game suspension last fall. For some reason, it took the NCAA until November to say that was more than they would have done.

That investigation hasn’t been finalized and includes some other sports. Ole Miss couldn’t publicly say it had been asked and answered by the NCAA regarding the texts about Tunsil accepting the money.

Tunsil, to his credit, didn’t deserve all of this. He’s admitted to his mistakes.

Now if everybody else will calm down.

Other schools in the SEC West will have to figure out a way to beat the Rebels on the field instead of in the NCAA offices.

Of course, Arkansas has already figured that out.

At least over the past two seasons.

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