After a six-year investigation into Ole Miss athletics, the NCAA handed down a long list of consequences for various recruiting violations and other transgressions. But the main problem? The case was built on the questionable motives of Laremy Tunsil’s stepfather.
That’s according to a report from SBNation’s Steven Godfrey, who said he has spent the last five years reporting on the NCAA’s investigation, Tunsil, the Leo Lewis saga and “bag men” culture in the SEC. Godfrey’s manifesto, which includes a four-part documentary series, was released Wednesday morning.
It’s a long read, but worth it for fans who want a better understanding of went on in the Magnolia State over the last few years. Among the notable pieces of information was the spotlight put on Lindsey Miller, Tunsil’s stepdad.
Miller reportedly was a key figure in Tunsil’s recruiting, which eventually was (surprisingly) won by Ole Miss. The 5-star tackle was recruited by nearly every top program in the country, but some coaches seemed to take a step back after realizing that Miller could become a problem.
“You recruit your problems,” a former SEC assistant told Godfrey. “It was evident at that time that recruiting Laremy Tunsil meant recruiting the stepfather. That’s not fair to the kid, but fair doesn’t matter if that family member is going to threaten your entire program. Ole Miss brought [Miller] into their program, into their community. They knew. There is absolutely no way the coaches who recruited him didn’t understand that relationship and the problem he posed.”
Spoiler alert: Miller posed a major problem. He ended up having a falling out with Tunsil that included Miller representing himself in court after the pair filed domestic violence charges against each other stemming from a 2013 incident. After a 2015 fight, Miller reportedly began speaking to the NCAA about Tunsil’s recruitment to the Rebels.
According to Godfrey, Miller’s testimony was the only thing that allowed the NCAA to build a case beyond Houston Nutt-era violations. And in doing so, the NCAA ignored Miller’s vendetta against Tunsil and his mother, Desiree Polingo.
Per Polingo, Miller once told her and Tunsil: “Y’all are going to pay for this. … you ain’t sh–, you ain’t never been sh–, and you ain’t about sh– and you’re going to reap what you sow.”
According to Godfrey, lead investigator Mike Sheridan was concerned about Miller’s motives at one point, but ultimately decided he was still “credible.”
“Miller’s integrity and motive had already been challenged in a real court of law, but the NCAA’s justice system — the investigation, the closed-door COI interviews — operates in a vacuum,” Godfrey wrote. “I believe there is no due process. In college football, from all that I have seen, credibility is a malleable concept.”
Ole Miss made plenty of mistakes along the way, but perhaps none as costly as ignoring the red flags around Tunsil’s 2013 recruitment.