As NCAA Hearing Ends, Wait Begins for Ole Miss has partnered with LexisNexis to bring you this content.

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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)


COVINGTON, Kentucky - After consecutive nine-and-a-half-hour days, all Ole Miss can really do now is wait.

A years-long NCAA investigation led to 21 allegations, including 15 Level I violations, charged against the football program.

And it took two long days for the NCAA's Committee on Infractions to hear the university and enforcement staff's side of things, completing its hearing in Covington Tuesday night around 6 p.m.

Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork declined to comment as he walked out of the hearing room. Walter "W.G." Watkins, Hugh Freeze's attorney, did the same.

Of the 21 allegations, the university contested at least portions of nine of them. The parties already agreed to some of the allegations that were discussed on Day 1, which allowed the committee to get through about two-thirds of those violations.

Tuesday was expected to be more difficult, though.

Ole Miss had to defend itself against a lack of institutional control charge and Freeze against a failure to monitor allegation. Those were two of the heaviest allegations in the Notice of Allegations that was sent to Ole Miss in February.

It also had to sort out some Leo Lewis allegations, mainly the allegation that he received between $13,000 and $15,600 from a booster.

Lewis was in Covington and testified Monday, sources confirmed to The Clarion-Ledger. He was expected to attend the hearing Tuesday as well and did, a source confirmed.

Lewis was tied to multiple violations, and the panel's judgment of his testimony will play a big factor in its decision.

Ole Miss received its initial Notice of Allegations, which also included violations tied to women's basketball and women's track, in January 2016. The women's hoops and women's track cases were settled in October.

The university received another notice in February, which resulted in it announcing a self-imposed postseason ban. The school also had to forfeit nearly $8 million in postseason revenue.

The school is desperately trying to avoid a two-year bowl ban, which would mean more money lost and the door opened for players to transfer freely.

Throughout this process, Ole Miss officials have said a ruling from the Committee on Infractions would come six-to-eight weeks after its hearing.

It took 74 days between the hearing and the announcement of the decision on women's basketball and women's track and field.

So while six-to-eight weeks has been the thought, there's potential a ruling could come after that.

Now that the hearing is done, private deliberations will take place between panel members in person, through teleconference or video conference. They'll eventually agree on a consensus decision.

If Ole Miss doesn't agree with the ruling, it can appeal to the Infractions Appeals Committee.

The hearing was conducted at the John A. Roebling ballroom at the Embassy Suites. The parties set aside three days for the hearing.

Matt Luke and assistant coaches Derrick Nix and Maurice Harris were at the hearing. Nix and Harris were there for their roles in separate allegations.

As head coach of the program, Luke was required to be at the hearing for its duration. Ole Miss, which is 2-0, is preparing to play Cal on the road this weekend in its biggest game to date this season.

Since the hearing ended Tuesday, Luke, Harris and Nix will only miss one day of practice. Monday was an off day for the team.

Harris, Nix, Bjork and Jeff Vitter were among the Ole Miss contingent which checked out of the Embassy Suites within minutes of the hearing's conclusion.

They'll head back to Oxford, where all they can do is wait for the committee to decide their futures and that of their program.

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September 13, 2017


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