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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)
OXFORD - Ole Miss' wait is nearly over.
Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told the Clarion Ledger that the university received its 24-hour notice of an NCAA Committee on Infractions ruling Thursday morning.
A years-long NCAA investigation resulted in 21 allegations, including 15 Level I violations, against Ole Miss' football program. The university will receive the committee's ruling at 8:30 a.m. Friday and the decision will be made public later in the morning.
Other involved at-risk parties, such as Hugh Freeze, Barney Farrar and Chris Kiffin, will be informed of the decision and any penalties at the same time as Ole Miss.
The university contested at least portions of nine of those 21 allegations at its Committee on Infractions hearing, which took place on Sept. 11 and 12 at a hotel in Covington, Kentucky. Ole Miss is up against a variety of allegations ranging from academic fraud to rogue boosters providing impermissible benefits to prospective recruits.
The most serious allegation levied against Ole Miss was a lack of institutional control charge.
Freeze, who resigned after the university discovered a pattern of personal misconduct tied to his phone records in July, allegedly violated his head coach responsibility legislation. So the stakes are high for him as well.
The university received its Notice of Allegations, which detailed these charges, from the NCAA's Enforcement Staff on Feb. 22. Ole Miss announced a self-imposed postseason ban that same day.
The Rebels picked up their sixth win of the season last week when they beat Mississippi State, 31-28, in the Egg Bowl. Under normal circumstances, they would play in a bowl game.
With the postseason ban, the university also forfeited its postseason revenue, which was nearly $8 million. To date, Ole Miss has spent $4.5 million fighting this case.
It has also stripped itself of 13 scholarships over four years.
The Committee on Infractions could decide to accept some of those self-imposed penalties or add more.
There's a usually a six-to-eight week window for decisions from the committee. In this case it will be 80 days. Besides passing through the entirety of the 2017 season, Ole Miss hired coach Matt Luke to lead the program earlier this week.
Louisville and North Carolina are two other notable cases that concluded this year. Both received rulings roughly eight weeks after their respective hearings.
Ole Miss had a case involving women's basketball and women's track and field last year and 74 days passed between the hearing and the announcement of the decision.
The complexity of the case could be a reason for the extended window. As mentioned previously, there are 21 allegations, which is more than what Louisville and North Carolina faced.
There are seven individual parties involved - Freeze, Kiffin, Farrar, David Saunders, Chris Vaughn and current assistants Derrick Nix and Maurice Harris - which doesn't exactly speed things up.
And there's the NCAA Enforcement Staff's use of limited immunity with Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis, who is connected to multiple Level I violations and testified at the COI hearing in September, which complicates things.
If the ruling is harsh, Ole Miss could appeal and extend this process for months.
At Luke's introductory press conference on Monday, Ross Bjork was asked about the NCAA proceedings and said: "We're prepared. We're ready, we're on go whenever we might get our final report and we'll deal with it. Obviously, we're ready to get this over with ... but we have no idea when or what might be coming."
The future of Ole Miss' football program will be determined - for better or worse - by whatever arrives.
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