What’s the latest with Ole Miss’ NCAA appeals process?

Published 12:03 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2018

More than two months have passed since Ole Miss officially appealed the ruling from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the school’s infractions case, and there hasn’t been much noise since despite deadlines having come and gone.

So where does Ole Miss’ appeal stand?

The process started with Ole Miss giving notice of its intent to appeal two weeks after the COI issued its final ruling in December before filing its appeal Feb. 5. The COI originally had 30 days from the time it received the school’s written appeal to respond, which made for a timeframe of early March, but the COI was granted a 30-day extension that gave it until April 8 to issue its response.

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In response to a public records request submitted by the EAGLE for the document two weeks ago, the school acknowledged that outside counsel had received the COI’s response but is working through issues related to the document’s release. Athletic director Ross Bjork on Monday said he had no update on when the COI’s response might be released publicly.

Ole Miss has two options moving forward: Accept the COI’s rebuttal or file one of its own. Should the school choose the latter, it has 14 days from the time it received the COI’s response to file a rebuttal.

The COI would then have 10 days from the time it receives Ole Miss’ rebuttal to respond to it in writing before the school has a hearing in front of the Infractions Appeals Committee, meaning it could be the summer before the appeals committee makes its final decision should Ole Miss decide to challenge the COI’s response.

Whenever the appeals process is exhausted, it will bring to an end the fallout of a nearly five-year investigation that resulted in the football program being charged with 21 rules violations, 15 of those being Level-I, or the most serious, charges. Ole Miss is appealing a multi-year bowl ban — the school previously self-imposed a bowl ban for the 2017 season — the charge of a lack of institutional control and a recruiting penalty that would limit prospects to one unofficial visit per academic year for the length of the school’s probation period, which runs through Nov. 30, 2020.

The school also challenged the finding that Rebel Rags, an Oxford-based retail store, provided $2,800 worth of free merchandise to Mississippi State players Leo Lewis and Kobe Jones and Lindsey Miller, the stepfather of former Ole Miss All-American Laremy Tunsil, during recruiting visits. Rebel Rags is suing Lewis, Jones and Miller as well as former Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, former MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin, investigator Mike Sheridan and the NCAA itself for defamation, commercial disparagement and civil conspiracy.

Petitions for interlocutory appeals made by Lewis and Jones seeking severance and change of venue in the case were denied last month by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The COI harped on the amount of booster involvement in sticking with the enforcement staff’s finding of a lack of institutional control, referring to Ole Miss’ booster culture as “unconstrained” as part of its final ruling. Six of the 14 boosters involved in the case, including Rebel Rags, were disassociated indefinitely by Ole Miss in December, but the school later reinstated Rebel Rags pending the outcome of its appeal.