Steven Godfrey wrote another article. Ole Miss fans are convinced it is the final straw that will either a) show Mississippi State is just as guilty as Ole Miss and send the Bulldogs into NCAA-forced obscurity with the Rebels, or b) prove the NCAA’s case is a witch hunt against Ole Miss.
Neither of these things are true.
I’ll explain why shortly, but let’s give Steven Godfrey the respect he deserves on a well written piece. Godfrey’s article is a well reported article. Steven Godfrey obtains the transcripts of Leo Lewis’ testimony before the NCAA Enforcement staff and relays the exact information. There is no debating what his testimony is.
His testimony and that of a recorded conversation Barney Farrar had between himself and the mother of Leo Lewis is that he received money from multiple schools. According to the testimony, he was offered $650,000 from an LSU booster and $80,000 from a Mississippi State booster.
The biggest revelation from this report is the NCAA opened an investigation into Mississippi State based on the testimony from Leo Lewis. This is why I have said all along that Dan Mullen did not orchestrate these events. Mullen did not want any of his players talking to the NCAA for this very reason. But the case has since been closed. Here’s the quote from the story.
Counsel representing Ole Miss is now alleging NCAA enforcement opened and then closed a case into Mississippi State based on Lewis’ interviews with the NCAA, citing a lack of credibility.
On August 16, attorneys representing Ole Miss wrote a letter addressed to COI chairman Greg Christopher, AD for Xavier University, which requested access to a separate NCAA investigation into Mississippi State. The letter, which was obtained by SB Nation, alleges that NCAA enforcement confirmed to Ole Miss that they had “quickly opened and subsequently closed” the investigation because Lewis’s statements about receiving money from Mississippi State were deemed to be “ultimately... not sufficiently credible to support an allegation.”
The claim is directly at odds with enforcement seemingly doubling down on their belief that Lewis’ statements about receiving benefits from Ole Miss were credible. As recently as the enforcement staff’s July 21 response to the COI, the NCAA has stood by Lewis as credible. “Lewis consistently provided credible and reliable information during the investigation,” enforcement wrote on July 21.
Ole Miss counsel’s argument to the COI -- the judge and jury of Ole Miss’ fate -- was simple: If Lewis’ testimony was found not credible in the NCAA’s investigation into Mississippi State, he could not be used as a credible witness in its investigation of Ole Miss.
Here is where I begin to scratch my head with Steven Godfrey’s article. Ole Miss is claiming that if the NCAA is not finding Leo Lewis credible when it comes to the allegations against Mississippi State, how can they find him credible when it comes to his allegations against Ole Miss?
The answer is simple. Evidence. Despite how Ole Miss fans desperately want anyone to believe that Dan Mullen sent Leo Lewis to the NCAA because he thought this was a golden opportunity to bury Ole Miss, it just doesn’t work that way. The NCAA had evidence that Leo Lewis received extra benefits and they used that to get the bigger fish. The NCAA gave Leo Lewis limited immunity so they could gather all they needed for the case they felt they had against the Ole Miss Rebels.
In doing so, Leo Lewis claims Mississippi State or one of its boosters gave him impermissible benefits. The NCAA opened the investigation and closed it because they have no evidence to back the claim. It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, it means the NCAA can’t prove it with more than just personal testimony. It would seem logical that there are no text messages, no one Leo Lewis could identify, and nothing simply to back the claim Leo Lewis made to investigators. Without the evidence, the NCAA Enforcement Staff can’t present a case.
The Enforcement Staff did have evidence to corroborate the story Leo Lewis presented them when he was interviewed on three separate occasions. The NCAA Enforcement Staff presented the evidence on why they found him to be credible and his retelling of the events to be accurate.
Ole Miss fans are sincerely hoping that this entire investigation will grab Mississippi State as well. If Ole Miss is going to be forced to deal with heavy sanctions, they want Mississippi State to have to do the same. It’s been this way on both sides for virtually all of the Egg Bowl Rivalry. But as enlightening as Godfrey’s article was on many of the details surrounding Leo Lewis, I still have a hard time believing it has done anything to change how any of his testimony will be damaging to Leo Lewis or Mississippi State.