The Houston Nutt vs. Ole Miss saga has resumed.
As expected, Nutt’s lawsuit against his former employer, its athletic foundation and board of trustees was refiled Wednesday in Lafayette County Circuit Court. The lawsuit alleges breach of contract, breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing and punitive damages. It centers on alleged defamatory statements made about Nutt, who coached the Rebels from 2008-11, by Ole Miss officials, including athletic director Ross Bjork and former head coach Hugh Freeze.
Specifically, per The Clarion-Ledger, the suit says the school violated the terms of Nutt’s severance agreement by spreading misinformation to journalists about the nature of the NCAA violations against the football program. Many reports about the nature of the violations, citing anonymous sources, said that many came from Nutt’s tenure. However, it was later revealed that the large majority of the violations alleged by the NCAA occurred during the Freeze era.
The interpretation of the severance agreement has been a point of contention for Nutt’s representatives, Thomas Mars and Walter Morrison, and the university and its athletic foundation. Ole Miss’ side contends the agreement was merely a directive and was aimed at a control group, which doesn’t include Freeze, Bjork and others.
Nutt’s side obviously doesn’t see it that way. This complaint also outlines phone calls of Freeze, Bjork, current Ole Miss administrators Kyle Campbell and Michael Thompson and former administrator Stephen Ponder that were made to several journalists around the arrival of Ole Miss’ January 2016 Notice of Allegations from the NCAA’s enforcement staff.
Nutt’s counsel alleged the university also spread the false narrative through texts and direct messages, and it’s also in possession of a screenshot of a text from an Ole Miss administrator to a reporter, which states the violations were about “Tunsil and Nutt.” The complaint alleged Freeze possessed two burner phones, which it states “is logical to assume” was used to spread a narrative about Nutt to journalists.
Nutt’s lawsuit ultimately led to the ouster of Freeze when research of his phone records found the coach dialed the number of an escort service in 2016. Further investigation into his call logs by Ole Miss led to the discovery of a “pattern of misconduct” by Freeze, who resigned.
The lawsuit was initially filed in U.S. District Court but an Ole Miss motion to dismiss was granted on jurisdictional grounds in August. At that point, even after a settlement was proposed, Nutt’s attorneys made it clear the suit would be re-filed.
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