In the history of Ole Miss athletics, Rebel fans have had to suffer through some rather unfair and outrageous circumstances.
From a 6-6 Alabama team picked for the Independence Bowl in 2002 over a 7-5 Rebel squad who beat them in the same year, to having to play the best team outside of the top eight in Texas during a Super Regional in Oxford, Ole Miss has had its fair share of perceived screw jobs.
But throughout my years of following and covering our beloved university, I have seen no more unjust treatment than the one the Rebel men's tennis team experienced Tuesday.
"The only thing we can do is swallow the medicine," head coach Billy Chadwick said of Ole Miss having to travel to Baton Rouge for the NCAA Tournament.
Well, the NCAA dictatorship has stuffed a horse-sized pill down this team's proverbial throat.
Maybe this column is better served if I preface by commending Chadwick and his troops on a tremendous year. Although they've hosted an NCAA Regional every year since 1999 (except in 2000 when they had to travel to Blacksburg, Va.), this season was arguably the best in recent memory.
Ole Miss finished 24-2 overall, while running through the SEC regular season (11-0) and the conference tournament to close it out. The No. 1 ranked doubles duo of seniors Jonas Berg and Bram ten Berge started slow, but finished with a flurry. Kalle Norberg made a sizeable jump at No. 3 singles, establishing himself as one of the best players in the SEC.
After it all, however, the talking-heads in Indianapolis found a way to throw one of their most recognizable programs under the bus.
Think about this. Of all the 16 national seeds, only two were prevented from hosting. No. 6 seed Baylor was the first, having to travel to Tulsa after finishing the season 23-5.
It will be the first time since 2002 the Bears have had to hit the road for a NCAA Championship – and after ranking No. 6 nationally no less.
"I feel awful for Mississippi, too," Baylor head coach Matt Knoll said. "They won the SEC regular-season and tournament and they're 2 in the country. To send them into LSU, which is a really tough place to play, it's hard to understand. You look at the draw, and you see teams from the east coast flying to the west coast, and vice versa. I feel pretty strongly that you reward the teams that have earned an opportunity to host."
No. 2 Ole Miss only led the nation in total attendance, and has beaten every team they've come across in conference. The Rebels are making their 16th consecutive NCAA appearance (18th overall) and have advanced to the "Sweet Sixteen" 14 times and the NCAA Final Four four times.
This marks the fourth time for Ole Miss to be seeded top five in the NCAA Championships, and the highest seed since 1997, when they were also the No. 2 seed. They advanced to the Final Four that year.
The Rebels won the SEC regular season championship, captured the SEC Tournament Championship for the second year in a row, and won their eighth straight SEC Western Division title.
But they aren't hosting.
Six teams from the SEC were selected to host, including LSU, who the Rebels beat 5-2 earlier this season. Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Alabama are the others. The common denominator? Ole Miss schooled them all.
In actuality, Tuesday's action by the NCAA is nothing more than a slap in the face. Baton Rouge, according to this joke of a selection committee, is a more central location for participating teams to travel than Oxford.
This has nothing to do with an effective means of cost-control with travel. If Alabama can host Boise State, and Kentucky can welcome Cleveland State, Wake Forest and Northwestern to Lexington, then Rice can easily make a quick plane ride to Faulkner country from Houston.
When you look outside the SEC, UCLA has Hawaii, Oklahoma State and Southern Illinois. Hell, Washington will apparently bus to Texas if we're counting pennies.
There has to be something more.
However, no excuse can justify what happened Tuesday. Chadwick and company have every right to raise as much cain as necessary so these types of instances don't happen again.
And if you think this will only occur in sports such as tennis – think again. If the NCAA chooses, they can sling some type of "regionalization" garbage come baseball selections if they feel like.
They're the final ruling. It's similar to Wall Street running rampant with no oversight.
"There will be people all over the place outraged, because they see that this could happen to anyone," Chadwick said. "They need to have some type of rules and regulations so that when you look at it and you're one of the top seeds, your chances of hosting will be great.
"It's extremely disappointing for the players and for the community. We've had a great fan base all year. We've hosted eight years in a row, and now we have to go to Baton Rouge. We played down there earlier and we have to do it again."
Berg, who hails from Sweden, and ten Berge, from the Netherlands, had made plans to fly their parents in for next weekend's graduation ceremonies.
Now having to trip south of Mississippi, their parents won't have the luxury of seeing their sons walk across the Grove stage.
"It's definitely a shocker, because we've been thinking that we would be hosting," freshman Devin Britton said. "I feel bad for the seniors (Bram and Jonas) because they're parents were coming to see them graduate. It's definitely unfortunate."
I'm sure we'll hear some type of damage control in the coming days, but no PR rhetoric can smooth this plentiful monstrosity.
What type of message does it send when an institution who claims its core purpose is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, rules against the fair and just?
The NCAA's hypocrisy knows no bounds.
Like any governing body, the NCAA warrants checks and balances. Every member of Rebel Nation should call for accountability and remain persistent in their efforts.
Until these higher-ups realize they're not the only voice for collegiate athletics, their reign will continue as they see fit.
Make now their time of reckoning.
The Audacity of Hypocrisy
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