The University of Mississippi’s hearing in front of the NCAA Committee on Infractions starts Monday in Covington, Kentucky, and despite a request from Mississippi State officials to be there "as observers," they will not be able to attend.
The panel will review 21 allegations against the Rebels, including 15 Level I violations.
Among the attendees will be former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and interim head coach Matt Luke. Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis is expected to attend; he was requested to appear by the COI as part of the limited immunity grant he received to speak with NCAA enforcement in 2016. Lewis’ statements to the NCAA about receiving impermissible benefits — including cash and apparel — from Ole Miss is one of the main allegations the school is expected to respond to at the COI hearing. Those statements also led to a pending civil suit against Lewis and other co-defendants by Oxford, Miss., apparel store Rebel Rags.
Entering Monday’s hearing the COI has denied two last-minute requests, per documents obtained by SB Nation.
COI chair and Xaiver University athletic director Greg Christopher denied an August 16 request by Mississippi State to have officials from MSU attend the event “as observers.” Christopher states MSU requested to attend the event “to guard the interests of one of its student athletes [Lewis] who will attend the hearing,” per language from Mississippi State counsel.
Christopher stated that representatives from the Southeastern Conference would be permitted to attend “to support the student athlete [Lewis].”
Mississippi State declined comment. The Southeastern Conference declined comment, but confirmed that the league would have representation at the hearing as part of its standard procedure when a member institute goes in front of the NCAA COI.
Parties representing former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, former Ole Miss defensive line coach, current FAU defensive coordinator Chris Kiffin, and the university itself requested access to materials related to a NCAA investigation into claims by Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis that he received cash payments from boosters for MSU. The request was also denied by Christopher.
In the NCAA’s investigation into Ole Miss, the largest number of current and prospective student-athletes being interviewed — outside of Ole Miss — are affiliated with Mississippi State.
At least four Mississippi State players, listed as “Institution 10” in the NCAA’s notice of allegations, are mentioned in Ole Miss’ official response to the NCAA.
Two current Mississippi State players, Jeffery Simmons and Kobe Jones, were interviewed by NCAA development in February of 2016. The development staff works as an open tip line for schools, athletes, or anyone else to contact the NCAA about potential violations, suggesting that Jones and Simmons could have volunteered to speak to the NCAA.
According to multiple sources, Jones told NCAA enforcement he’d discussed speaking with the NCAA about former MSU defensive line coach and current Texas A&M assistant David Turner.
SB Nation can confirm that a Level III allegation included in the notice of allegations involving the use of private hunting land included former Rebel and current Auburn offensive lineman Austin Golson.
Ole Miss interim head coach Matt Luke and two current assistants, tight ends coach Maurice Harris and running backs coach Derrick Nix, will be present in Covington, Kentucky this week for questioning by the Committee. Harris and Nix are named in allegations. Luke is not named in allegation, but must attend as acting head coach of the program. Freeze and former staff member Barney Farrar will also attend the COI.
All three programs with coaches or players at the meeting are prepping for games this Saturday. The Rebels defeated UT-Martin 45-23 on Saturday and will play at Cal Saturday. FAU lost at Wisconsin 31-14 and is scheduled to host Bethune-Cookman pending Hurricane Irma. Mississippi State beat Louisiana Tech 57-21 and will open SEC play vs. LSU Saturday.
Ole Miss has already self-imposed a one-year bowl ban for the 2017 season and reduced 11 scholarships over four seasons. The Rebel football program is facing 21 total alleged violations by NCAA enforcement, including 15 classified as Level I.