Ole Miss, Houston Nutt reach settlement to end lawsuit
Houston Nutt has dropped his lawsuit against Ole Miss.
In a joint statement released Monday, the two sides said “an agreement” has been reached to end further litigation. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
“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 statement said. “The parties have reached such an agreement.”
Nutt, who coached Ole Miss from 2008-11, sued the school for breach of contract, breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing and punitive damages. The lawsuit centered on alleged defamatory statements made about Nutt by Ole Miss officials, including athletic director Ross Bjork and former head coach Hugh Freeze, to journalists about the nature of the NCAA violations against the football program. Some 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 Freeze’s time as Rebels head coach.
For that, Ole Miss issued an apology of sorts in a statement.
“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 statement read. “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.”
Thomas Mars, Nutt’s attorney, issued the following statement:
“I’m pleased to confirm that the lawsuit we filed on behalf of Coach Nutt last week has been settled. We won’t be taking any questions or making any comments about the settlement or the press release — on or off the record.”
Added Nutt: “I am pleased to put the lawsuit behind me. Best wishes to the future of the Ole Miss Football program.”
Nutt’s lawsuit, originally filed in U.S. District Court, led to the unceremonious departure of Freeze. Nutt’s attorneys pored through Freeze’s phone records — looking for calls to reporters — and found the coach dialed the number of an escort service from a university-issued phone in 2016. The school investigated Freeze’s call logs further and discovered a “pattern of misconduct.” Freeze then resigned.
Ole Miss filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and it was granted in August on jurisdictional grounds, but Nutt’s representatives made it clear the suit would be refiled. That came to fruition last week when the suit was refiled in Lafayette County Circuit Court. Previously proposed settlements from Nutt’s side were rebuffed by Ole Miss — a decision that ultimately cost Freeze his job.
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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!