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The Ole Miss case is showing how the NCAA sausage gets made

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Two new reports by SB Nation’s Steven Godfrey highlight how the NCAA’s put athletes at rival schools in tough spots.

Mississippi State v Mississippi Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The NCAA's current most famous investigation is into Ole Miss, but the name of the school doesn't matter all that much in at least one sense. The governing body has no subpoena power or any IRL power beyond what's vested in it by schools, so its investigations often look a little farcical. Combine that with the unimportant things it chooses to investigate, and you've got a fine recipe.

The latest example: that time former Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief was ruled ineligible during the season because the NCAA saw a photo of him driving his brother's Challenger.

“To prove I owned my car, basically,” Spencer Moncrief says. “They hung up my brother’s career for that.”

What the Moncriefs didn’t know was that Sheridan’s theory of Spencer being in two places in the same time had been debunked a month prior by the bank itself. Through a timeline pieced together by SB Nation, it seemed as if Sheridan was bluffing, trying to see if Spencer Moncrief would break.

“Except I did pay my note in Tupelo. And it was my car,” Spencer Moncrief told SB Nation. “I’m a grown man. I’m not a kid. I’m a grown man with a car that I let my brother drive sometimes. I have a degree; why can’t I afford a car?

“The entire process, I was like dang, because I drive a car, a nice car, I really felt like they were discriminating. Honestly. ‘He’s black, he can’t afford that car.’”

That story gets into Spencer having to drag out loan receipts and pay stubs and explain to the NCAA his Instagram account and how often black men get haircuts (the investigator didn't understand how Moncrief's client list could produce so much money), all while the NCAA's investigator was quizzing a bank's employees about its customers and got a motel to turn over information about Moncrief. It's pretty nuts, but not uncommon.

(Here’s where you remember the NCAA once had to investigate its own investigation of its own investigation into Miami.)

In another wild situation that could actually impact Ole Miss' NCAA case, rival linebacker Leo Lewis of Mississippi State now has a decision. The NCAA wants him to appear at its infractions hearing against the Rebels:

Lewis could appear at the COI, answer a few questions, and be on his way, eligibility intact. And lawyers involved in the case expect that Lewis will field questions only from members of the committee and not from lawyers representing Ole Miss coaches or the University of Mississippi. In other words, don’t expect a Law & Order third act.

Technically, Lewis doesn’t have to go to the COI. The NCAA isn’t a court of law. He could just as easily elect not to appear and avoid adding to an already substantial record of statements, one that has already elicited a civil lawsuit against him.

However, if Lewis doesn’t show, he could void his limited immunity, jeopardizing his eligibility and professional football prospects.

The quandary for Lewis: he's already being sued by an Oxford apparel shop, which he'd accused of handing out benefits to amateur athletes. So now he's got to decide how to balance risks to his career, future earnings, and reputation, all while ... preparing to attend class and practice and all that student-athlete stuff.

There's gotta be a much simpler way to regulate the benefits received by college athletes.

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