Ole Miss issued its first response to the NCAA’s updated Notice of Allegations from last February, and very little has changed. The university is standing hard by head football coach Hugh Freeze, while denying the program suffered from a lack of institutional control.
But that’s not what we’re here to discuss. We’re here to talk about Leo Lewis, the current Mississippi State linebacker who features prominently throughout the middle of the document, and his claims of having received upwards of $15,000 in cash from Rebel boosters. The university vehemently denies Lewis’ account, citing his contradictory statements to investigators and from his own family.
Lewis’ outsized pronouncements made waves back around National Signing Day, and it later emerged that he was offered immunity from any form of NCAA punishment in exchange for whatever testimony the former Rebel recruit could give infractions personnel.
Speed up to later in February when Ole Miss released a video updating the public on the NCAA’s revised NOA, after which Lewis tweeted the following GIF of Heath Ledger as the Joker. Presumably feeling a pang of schadenfreude, Lewis engaged the Egg Bowl rivalry in appropriately bash-the-hornets-nest-with-a-bat fashion.
When refuting Lewis’ testimony and the supposed cash payouts, Ole Miss’ response letter (which refers to him as Student-Athlete 39) straight up cites that tweet as evidence of Lewis’ touting his new-found celebrity with Mississippi State fandom at the expense of a rival that he very well snitched on.
Here’s how that paragraph preceding the GIF screenshot reads:
The curious request for limited immunity which [Student-Athlete 39] probably did not need because recruiting violations committed by a University booster would not usually render him ineligible at his current institution raises the possibility that [Student-Athlete 39] was seeking to use the immunity process and his first interview to explain his access to large sums of money around signing day while deflecting questions about the true source of that money and simultaneously harming his team’s football rival in a very public way. [Student-Athlete 39’s] social media response to the University’s video announcing its receipt of the Notice, which seemingly celebrates the negative publicity that followed the announcement, indicates that [Student-Athlete 39] enjoyed causing the University harm.
This is how stupid our investigation has become. But that’s not all. Does Lewis raise the specter of the Bagman? You bet your ass he does.
It’s a very long offseason.