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Ole Miss' NCAA reckoning could come by November

The Rebels will get their day in NCAA court in September.

The NCAA’s investigation into the football program at Ole Miss is now about a half-decade long. The proceedings could come to an end soon.

Ole Miss officials will have their hearing with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions on Sept. 11. It might take a few days to complete. Once it’s done, the committee is expected to have a verdict on Ole Miss’ case within six to eight weeks. That puts the timeline on a decision in the case at no later than November.

The committee will judge whether (and how severely) Ole Miss violated NCAA rules. Ole Miss already self-imposed a bowl ban for the 2017 season. That’s a common tactic by schools seeking mercy from the NCAA, but the organization could still decide to punish the school heavily if the hearing goes investigators’ way.

The football team is facing 21 allegations that it violated NCAA rules. Those span widely in severity, from standardized test fraud to coaches having prohibited off-campus contact with recruits.

Many of the allegations are Level I charges, the most serious type. Most are alleged to have occurred under the administration of Hugh Freeze, the coach recently fired in an escort scandal. One charge is that Ole Miss boosters paid $13,000 to a recruit who decided to play elsewhere. That’s the most embarrassing one.

The NCAA’s pursuit of Ole Miss has been dogged. At one point, investigators didn’t believe a player’s brother could afford a car on his own, so they launched a probe into whether he’d received illicit benefits. They’ve interviewed players who wound up at other schools, most notably Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis.

Freeze wasn’t fired because of Ole Miss’ NCAA problems, but his dismissal was related to the investigation. His predecessor, Houston Nutt, sued the school, alleging it had unfairly sought to pin its NCAA troubles on him.

A records request by Nutt’s camp turned up problematic phone calls from Freeze, which was ironic given Nutt’s previous problems with public records.

Freeze’s offensive line coach, Matt Luke, is serving as Ole Miss’ interim coach this season. He’s stepping into a challenging situation, obviously.

How the school’s NCAA hearing goes will shape its future more than any football game Luke coaches this season.