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Leo Lewis claims he was paid by Mississippi State teammate’s father at Ole Miss’ COI hearing

Davis Potter

The Oxford Eagle

Ole Miss is set to receive the final ruling in its NCAA infractions case Friday.

How bad it is will depend heavily on the credibility of the governing body’s star witness, Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis, who reportedly revealed some new information in the case during his testimony at Ole Miss’ hearing with the Committee on Infractions back in September.

According to a story published by SBNation.com, which cited anonymous sources that confirmed details of the hearing, Lewis told the COI he received a $10,000 cash payment before signing with Mississippi State in February 2015 from Calvin Green, defensive backs coach at Copiah-Lincoln Community College and the father of MSU tight end Ferrod Green.

Sources also told SBNation that Lewis stated he met with former MSU coach Dan Mullen months before the NCAA began investigating Lewis’ recruitment in the summer of 2016 to discuss his recruitment by both schools. Lewis, who was granted limited immunity from sanctions at MSU in exchange for a truthful account of his recruitment by Ole Miss, did not reveal any of this information in previous interviews with the NCAA’s enforcement staff.

Ole Miss is facing 21 alleged rules violations with Lewis being involved in multiple Level-I charges. Lewis has alleged he received free apparel from Rebel Rags, an Oxford-based retail clothing company, and as much as $15,600 in payments from Ole Miss boosters.

Lewis is a co-defendant in an lawsuit filed by Rebel Rags, which is suing for defamation, commercial disparagement and civil conspiracy for what it believes where deliberately false statements made by Lewis and others in interviews with the NCAA’s enforcement staff.

The COI’s decision will come nearly more than 11 weeks after it heard the school’s case in September. The school’s amended Notice of Allegations added eight new allegations to run the total to 21 with 15 of those being Level I charges — the most serious in the eyes of the NCAA — including a lack of institutional control that replaced the more limited failure-to-monitor charge that appeared in the original NOA the school received in January 2016.

Ole Miss has already self-imposed three years of probation, the loss of 11 scholarships over four seasons starting with the 2015-16 academic year and a bowl ban this season.

Eleven of the Level I charges were tied to the five-year tenure of former coach Hugh Freeze, who resigned in the summer amid an escort scandal. Among them was former off-field staffer Barney Farrar and former defensive line coach Chris Kiffin allegedly arranging for Lindsey Miller, the estranged stepfather of former Ole Miss offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, and then-recruits Kobe Jones and Leo Lewis, who now play for Mississippi State, to receive $2,800 in free merchandise from Rebel Rags, an Oxford-based retail clothing store.

Rebel Rags has sued Miller, Jones and Lewis for defamation, commercial disparagement and civil conspiracy in a case that’s still playing out in the legal system.

Farrar was also accused of arranging as much as $15,600 in cash payments to Lewis, a central figure in the case after being granted immunity from potential sanctions at MSU in exchange for a truthful account of his recruitment by the Rebels.

In its 124-page response to the amended NOA, Ole Miss fought a charge against Freeze of failing to monitor his coaching staff as well as the alleged free merchandise and cash payments, challenging the testimonies of Jones, Miller and Lewis. The school also tried to shoot down Lewis’ credibility by pointing out inconsistencies in his various testimonies, but the NCAA’s enforcement said it found Lewis to be credible in its final report in which it reinforced all 21 charges.

Four of the Level I charges dated back to the tenure of Houston Nutt, who coached Ole Miss from 2008-11. Two of Nutt’s former assistants, David Saunders and Chris Vaughn, participated in academic misconduct by arranging for six recruits to receive fixed ACT scores at Wayne County High School and then lied about their involvement.

Saunders received an eight-year show-cause penalty from the NCAA while Vaughn was fired from his post as Texas’ defensive backs coach last year. Nutt and the school spent the last four months in a legal spat after he filed a lawsuit alleging a breach of contract and defamation for what he believes was too much blame pinned on his tenure by the school in its initial response to the original NOA.

The case was dismissed in federal court and refiled in state court before the two sides agreed to settle out of court last month.

Leo Lewis