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Mississippi legislator introduces bill to expedite NCAA investigations

The NCAA’s investigation into Ole Miss’ football program is going on five years, but a bill recently introduced in the Mississippi legislature aims to speed up the process for all of the state’s member institutions.

House Bill 1040, which would be referred to as the NCAA Fairness in F.A.C.T. Investigation Act of 2017, has been proposed to limit the time the NCAA has to conduct a probe into rules violations to one year without the governing body facing a financial penalty. The bill would require that schools have three months to respond to an official notice of allegations with the NCAA then having nine months from the time it receives the school’s response to complete its investigation.

If the NCAA doesn’t issue its final ruling by then, the bill proposes a $10,000 fine for each day it goes past the allotted time to be paid to the school being investigated. Any appeal by the school of the Committee on Infractions’ ruling would have to be wrapped up within six months of the date the ruling was issued, the bill proposes.

The legislation would also require the NCAA to dismiss the investigation if it can’t find enough evidence to warrant issuing an official notice within six months of the school receiving a preliminary letter of inquiry containing the charges.

The legislation was drawn up by Rep. Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia. Lamar was a walk-on running back at Ole Miss from 2001-02, according to Ole Miss’ official athletics website.

If adopted, the bill would go into effect July 1, but whether that has any real chance of happening is guesswork. Thousands of bills are introduced annually with most of them never making it to a vote.

Ole Miss’ women’s basketball and track programs were also investigated beginning in 2012, but the NCAA announced in October those probes were done. Ole Miss received its notice of allegations last January and issued a response in April that included self-imposed sanctions, but the football investigation was reopened on the first night of the NFL Draft when former offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil claimed to have taken money from an Ole Miss staffer.

The bill states its purpose is “to reduce the amount of uncertainty experienced by state institutions of higher learning which are subjected to the investigative process of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for alleged violations of association rules and regulations enacted through NCAA legislation.”

The NCAA cloud hovering over the program is undoubtedly affecting the Rebels’ recruiting. After signing top-20 classes each of the last four seasons, according to 247Sports.com’s composite rankings, Ole Miss’ 2017 crop is ranked 46th nationally by 247Sports, 50th by Scout.com and 62nd by Rivals.com with two weeks left before National Signing Day.