Ole Miss Apologizes, Settles Houston Nutt Lawsuit

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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)


OXFORD — The three-month legal saga between Houston Nutt and Ole Miss reached its conclusion Monday afternoon.

In a joint statement, both parties announced a settlement in Nutt's lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in July, dismissed in August, then refiled in Lafayette County Circuit Court last week.

"The lawyers who represent the University and Coach Nutt have communicated during the past few weeks to reach an agreement that would allow the parties to resolve Coach Nutt's claim while avoiding the costs and distractions associated with further litigation," the university and Nutt's statement said. "The parties have reached such an agreement."

Nutt filed the lawsuit, which alleged a breach of contract, a breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, and punitive damages, in response to an alleged misinformation campaign led by Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss officials after the arrival of the university's Notice of Allegations from the NCAA's enforcement staff in January 2016.

Both complaints filed by Nutt outlined calls made by Ole Miss officials to several journalists around the time the university received its notice.

Thomas Mars, Nutt's Arkansas-based attorney, has consistently stated he wanted an apology — and sometimes more than that — from the university for what he considered a smear campaign against his client.

"Certain statements made by University employees in January 2016 appear to have contributed to misleading media reports about Coach Nutt.

"To the extent any such statements harmed Coach Nutt's reputation, the University apologizes, as this was not the intent," the university said in a statement.

"The NCAA's Notice of Allegations dated January 22, 2016, did not name or implicate Coach Nutt in any misconduct, and it would have been inappropriate for any University employee to suggest otherwise."

Throughout the past few months, the university didn't feel an apology or any further compensation for Nutt was necessary.

When asked if any compensation was included in the settlement, lawyers from both parties declined to say anything more than their statements.

In a statement, Nutt said: "I am pleased to put the lawsuit behind me. Best wishes to the future of the Ole Miss Football program."

Freeze was the main casualty of this lawsuit.

Mars, through a public records request of Freeze's phone records, discovered a call made by Freeze on his university-issued cellphone.

Ole Miss later looked into the rest of Freeze's phone records and found a pattern of personal misconduct, which led to his resignation and the end of his five-year tenure as the Rebels' coach.

Nutt said it wasn't his intention to bring Freeze down.

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October 17, 2017


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