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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)
COVINGTON, Kentucky - The doors of the John A. Roebling ballroom at the Embassy Suites finally flung open a few minutes before 6 p.m. Monday evening.
Hugh Freeze exited the room. Lee Tyner, Ole Miss' general counsel, soon followed, as did Ross Bjork and others.
Those exits marked the end of Day 1 of Ole Miss' long-awaited hearing before the Committee on Infractions.
Ole Miss' football program is alleged to have committed 21 NCAA violations, including 15 Level I violations. Two-to-three days have been set aside for this hearing, which started at 8:30 Monday morning and lasted nearly nine and a half hours.
Barney Farrar, who has been described as a "rogue" staffer by Ole Miss, walked into the ballroom with his attorney, Bruse Loyd, a little before 8 a.m. Former assistant coach Chris Kiffin walked in with his attorney, Billy Quinn, minutes later.
Freeze was accompanied by his legal team, which is led by Walter, "W.G." Watkins, and entered the hearing room at 8:10. Ole Miss' contingency, led by Jeff Vitter, the university's chancellor, and Bjork came in a few moments afterward.
As Ole Miss' current head coach, Matt Luke has been requested to attend the hearing for its duration. Luke, who donned a black suit, white dress shirt and red tie, walked in at 8:14 a.m.
Assistant coaches Maurice Harris and Derrick Nix were in attendance and also tied to some violations listed early on in the notice.
Who was not seen by the media is perhaps the most intriguing name, Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis. A source told The Clarion-Ledger's Will Sammon that Lewis was in Covington Monday.
The first day of a hearing typically begins with a call to order, which is followed by an introduction from all the involved parties and announcements from Chief Hearing Officer Greg Christopher, Xavier athletic director.
That is followed by opening statements from each party, which are limited to five minutes. After that, a review of the allegations begins.
Those allegations are reviewed in the order they're listed in the Notice of Allegations.
Lewis isn't mentioned until Allegation No. 9. The allegation is Farrar and Kiffin arranged for Lewis, his MSU teammate Kobe Jones, and Lindsey Miller, Laremy Tunsil's estranged stepdad, to receive approximately $2,800 worth of free merchandise from Rebel Rags, which was categorized as a Level I violation.
Lewis is a key figure in this case. He was granted limited immunity by the enforcement staff and is tied to five violations, a majority of which were deemed Level I.
He was requested and expected to attend the hearing.
Ole Miss is fighting the Rebel Rags allegation as well as the allegation that a booster paid Lewis between $13,000 and $15,600.
The university is contesting at least portions of nine allegations and has to fight off the dreaded lack of institutional control charge, which is the most serious one it faces.
Freeze has to defend himself against a failure to monitor charge. The school is contesting both.
When Ole Miss received its Notice of Allegations in February, it announced a self-imposed one-year postseason ban based off what had been alleged. It had to forfeit nearly $8 million in postseason revenue.
It's unclear at the moment how many allegations the Committee on Infractions got through on Monday.
The hearing resumes at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
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