It seemingly could’ve been so simple for Ole Miss.
In the midst of an NCAA investigation into allegations levied against the football program, the university, in what its former head coach and its lawyer said was a concerted and organized effort, laid the lion’s share of the blame for the potential violations at the feet of Houston Nutt. Nutt wasn’t pleased with the portrayal at the time the Notice of Allegations was issued in May of last year, and stated in May of this year that, if a public apology wasn’t forthcoming, he would file a defamation lawsuit against the university.
That apology never came, leading Nutt to file a lawsuit in mid-July alleging that Hugh Freeze and other Ole Miss officials engaged in a clandestine smear campaign to pin the allegations of NCAA violations on their former coach. The lawsuit levied some rather serious accusations, including Freeze allegedly conducting off-the-record conversations with prominent journalists and recruits to falsely spread the narrative that most of the recruiting violations occurred under Nutt’s watch. It also, ultimately, led to the discovery of phone records that triggered Freeze’s ouster as head coach.
As it stands in the here and now, Nutt would still accept a public apology from all involved. However, he won’t simply settle for a mea culpa as Nutt’s attorney has dug his heels in for what could prove to be a protracted and even nastier — and public — battle royale between the two sides.
“It’s difficult to answer that question without knowing when that might happen, if ever, and what other significant evidence we’ll develop in the meantime,” Nutt’s attorney, Thomas Mars, told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger when asked what would be considered suitable compensation. “Just in the past few weeks, for instance, we unexpectedly uncovered some very relevant and helpful evidence that we weren’t even looking for at the time.
“That information, and any other new evidence we find, would factor into our calculations of what we’d consider reasonable compensation for Coach Nutt.”
In response to latest developments, the university issued the following statement to the Clarion-Ledger.
Generally, in legal proceedings, the University of Mississippi allows its formal court filings to speak on its behalf. But to be clear, this case has no merit, and there is no reason to apologize. Further, it is clear Mr. Nutt’s suit seeks far more than an apology.
In other words, this lawsuit is not going away anytime soon, which means the legal pit bull that is Mars will continue digging… and digging… and digging until the university is sufficiently embarrassed and will have no choice but to settle. And apologize. Which is all it needed to do in the first place to avoid compounding an already-messy NCAA situation.