Things are getting rough for the University of Mississippi’s football program. Not only is
the school in the middle of an NCAA investigation, but it is also facing a lawsuit from former head coach Houston Nutt.
Nutt is suing the university, the Ole Miss Athletics Foundations and the Board of Trustees for the Institutes of Higher Learning for a breach of contract after the school allegedly violated his severance agreement.
The suit, which Nutt filed in U.S. District Court in Oxford, also alleges that current Athletic Director Ross Bjork and head football coach Hugh Freeze defamed his character through a smear campaign.
Nutt alleges that the defendants made “false and defamatory statements” about him during the recent NCAA investigation. The suit points out that Nutt’s name doesn’t appear in the two Notices of Allegations, but Freeze’s name is mentioned a combined 58 times in the documents.
It also states that Freeze spoke with several reporters and used the media to blame most of the NCAA violations on Nutt. In fact, 17 of the 21 NCAA violations occurred while Freeze was head coach.
The suit uses several examples of “off-the-record” conversations between the defendants and members of the media. To make the claims in the suit, it uses phone records obtained from the university.
Nutt alleges that the school used the smear campaign to protect Freeze and keep the 2016 recruiting class intact. His suit references an SB Nation post in which one recruit said Freeze told him others were out to get the program.
In May of this year, Nutt and his attorney, Thomas Mars, asked the university to issue an apology, a request that the school did not oblige. He filed the lawsuit just one day before Freeze was scheduled to meet with the media for SEC Media Days.
Nutt coached the Rebels from 2008 to 2011 and experienced some early success before the program went south under his leadership. The school fired him after he finished the 2011 season with a 2-10 record. During his four seasons at UM, he had a 24-26 overall record.
Currently, the former coach works as an on-air analyst for CBS Sports. He claims the smear campaign has made it hard for him to get another coaching job.