Another page turns Monday in the NCAA’s investigation into Ole Miss football.
A group of school administrators and coaches will begin the first of a three-day hearing before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the Cincinnati suburb of Covington, Kentucky.
The committee is comprised of individuals from NCAA schools who serve as volunteers.
A seven-member subcommittee has been formed to hear the Ole Miss case. It features administrators retired and currently working, former Georgia Tech basketball coach Bobby Cremins and a private citizen.
The Ole Miss team in attendance will include athletics director Ross Bjork, compliance director Matt Ball, associate athletics director for compliance Julie Owen, faculty athletics representative Ron Rychlak, assistant football coaches Maurice Harris and Derrick Nix, and interim head coach Matt Luke.
Ole Miss’ fate will not be decided at the conclusion of the hearing. Once it’s complete, the committee will have six to eight weeks to announce what additional penalties it will add to those already self-imposed by the school. Ole Miss has already announced a reduction of 11 scholarships over four years – a reduction it’s already begun to serve – plus three years of probation and a bowl ban for 2017.
Luke will be away from the program, a standard off day from practice for the Rebels. He insists the hearing, while bearing great significance on the future of the program, is not a distraction for his players.
“They know this is coming,” he said. “This team has been through a lot. This is just one more thing. We’ll use it as motivation and use it to help us prepare.”
Ole Miss is 2-0 after a 45-23 win over FCS opponent Tennessee-Martin on Saturday. The Rebels started slowly and twice faced two-possession deficits in the first half before rallying to lead 17-16 at halftime.
They face Power Five conference opposition for the first time this week against the Pac-12’s Cal on the road. The Golden Bears are also 2-0 and, like Ole Miss, had to rally to defeat an FCS foe at home over the weekend. Eventually they were able to overtake Weber State in a 33-20 win.
Luke is hopeful to be back for the Rebels’ Tuesday practice, the first of intense preparation for the game ahead. If he’s not, things will run smoothly with defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff and offensive coordinator Phil Longo in charge, he said.
Wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge agrees.
“We don’t worry about that,” Lodge said. “We handle things we can control. We play for each other, and that’s the only thing we’re focused on.”
(You can follow Parrish Alford on Twitter @parrishalford)
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