Thanks to off-field events, the Egg Bowl rivalry has ratcheted up a notch or 12 in the last week or so — after ratcheting up several levels the previous months.
Monday, ESPN.com‘s Mark Schlabach reported that it was a lifelong Mississippi State fan who discovered the infamous call to a number connected to an escort service and led to Hugh Freeze being forcefully ousted at Ole Miss. Two days later, Schlabach is reporting that attorneys representing the university and former coaches accused of wrongdoing are asking the NCAA that it require two Mississippi State football players, Leo Lewis and Kobe Jones, to appear at their hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions later this year.
At this point in time, it’s unclear whether either player has received a notice to appear.
Jones, a four-star 2016 signee, has alleged that an Ole Miss booster paid him upwards of $15,000 as an inducement to go to the Rebels before he signed with the rival Bulldogs. “Lewis also accused Rebels boosters and former coaches of arranging for him to receive free transportation, lodging, food and meals and memorabilia and clothing from Rebel Rags, a retail store in Oxford,” Schlabach wrote Wednesday.
The Oxford retailer filed a lawsuit last month against, among others, Jones and Lewis alleging “defamation, slander, conspiracy and commercial disparagement stemming from false statements made to the NCAA.” On at least three occasions, the Bulldog duo spoke to the NCAA and its investigators regarding their allegations made against the rival program.
From Schlabach’s latest report:
The NCAA previously denied Ole Miss lawyers’ requests to interview Jones and Lewis about allegations they made during the NCAA’s investigation of the Rebels. In fact, Lewis’ attorneys stopped the second of three interviews with NCAA investigators after Ole Miss’ lawyers attempted to cross-examine him. Ole Miss wasn’t allowed to have an attorney at his third interview.
Jones and Lewis were provided partial immunity by NCAA investigators before they were interviewed.
The NCAA has accused the Ole Miss football program of 21 violations, 15 of which are the most serious under The Association’s penalty structure. Ole Miss self-imposed a bowl ban for the 2017 season as well as stripped itself of seven scholarships. Additionally, they will forfeit all postseason revenues for the upcoming season, a number in excess of $7 million. It’s expected the NCAA will add to those self-imposed sanctions.
The university received its Notice of Allegations from the NCAA back in February, releasing its response to the NOA early last month.
Former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt and his attorney filed a lawsuit earlier this month as well, alleging that Freeze and other Ole Miss officials engaged in a clandestine smear campaign to pin the NCAA investigation into the Rebels’ football program in large part on Nutt. The lawsuit levied some rather serious allegations, including Freeze allegedly conducting off-the-record conversations with prominent journalists and recruits to falsely spread the narrative that the lion’s share of NCAA recruiting violations occurred under Nutt’s watch.