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Apology no longer all Houston Nutt will settle for from Ole Miss

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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.

Hugh Freeze reportedly made at least a dozen calls to escort services as Ole Miss coach

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Former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze dialed “at least 12” numbers associated with escort services through online advertisements, according to a review of open records obtained by ESPN.com. The calls took place over a 33-month period, stretching from April 2014 through January 2017, and typically lasted two minutes or less.

Those calls appear to be what Ole Miss chancellor Jeffrey Vitter referenced as “a pattern of personal misconduct” on the night he resigned. The calls are the second phone related-issue connected to Freeze’s dismissal. He also made at least 200 calls to a booster that is under NCAA investigation.

There are two puzzling aspects to Freeze’s calls to escort services: A) that he made the calls on a university-owned cell phone in the first place, and B) that Freeze did not redact the calls from the records request, since other private calls were removed from the public review of his 39,000 calls as the Rebels’ head coach.

“Any personal calls having no relation to UM business are not public records,” Ole Miss attorney Robert T. Jolly wrote in an email to ESPN. “Personal calls will be clearly marked and redacted from the documents released.”

Freeze went 39-25 in five seasons as the Ole Miss head coach, peaking with back-to-back wins over Alabama and a long-awaited Sugar Bowl victory to close the 2015 season but ending with a 5-7 mark and a self-imposed bowl ban for the 2017 season, which will be coached by interim Matt Luke. Ole Miss will sit before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions on Sept. 11, with Freeze’s character and strict adherence to NCAA recruiting rules a cornerstone of the school’s defense.

Reports: Oklahoma State RB Jeff Carr to transfer

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Jeff Carr is planning to transfer from Oklahoma State, according to a report from Pokes sidelines reporter Robert Allen. That report has since been confirmed by the Tulsa World and The Oklahoman. Carr has since been removed from Oklahoma State’s online roster.

A junior, Carr was Oklahoma State’s most experienced running back but was passed on the depth chart by sophomore Justice Hill. Hill ran the ball 206 times for 1,142 yards and six touchdowns a year ago, while Carr rushed 12 times for 83 yards and one score. His 6.92 yards per carry average led the team. Carr rushed 36 times for 142 yards and one score as a freshman in 2015. Carr also saw his touches as a kickoff returner (29 returns to three) and a receiver (11 catches to one) fall from 2015 to ’16.

After losing the Temple, Texas, native, Oklahoma State will have five running backs on scholarship — four freshmen and one sophomore, Hill.

Multiple outlets have reported Carr is headed to Texas A&M-Kingsville, a Division II school that will permit Carr to play immediately.

Georgia Southern names redshirt freshman Shai Werts starting QB

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Georgia Southern is rolling with a freshman at quarterback this season.

The Eagles have announced that redshirt freshman Shai Werts will be the club’s starting signal caller to begin the season. Werts beat out junior college transfer Kado Brown and junior LaBaron Anthony to win the job.

“I think Shai certainly came in and took the majority amount of snaps with the ones both in spring practice and in camp and I thought he did a great job,” head coach Tyson Summers said in a statement. “I think that you see him have a very clear understanding of what we want do on offense. I think you see him have a very clear understanding of what he’s got to work on to get better at and I think that he’s done a tremendous job from a leadership standpoint on the field and in the classroom and in the meeting room. He’s certainly one of the key leaders for our entire football team, not just in the quarterback room and not just the offense, so I’m very proud of Shai.”

Werts replaces Georgia Southern’s two departed quarterbacks in seniors Kevin Ellison and Fabian Upshaw. The pair combined to complete 112-of-190 passes (58.9 percent) for 1,485 yards (7.82 yards per attempt) with 12 touchdowns against five interceptions while rushing 208 times for 1,019 yards (4.9 per carry) with nine touchdowns. As a team, Georgia Southern ranked 101st nationally in yards per play and 78th in scoring.

A native of Clinton, S.C., Werts stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 190 pounds. He was named the HSSR-SCHSL Division I AA Offensive Player of the Year as a senior at Newberry High School.

“All the work I’ve been putting in, it’s finally paid off,” Werts said. “I called my mom and she just went crazy so I’m glad that she’s proud of me and I can’t wait to tell the rest of my family.”

Werts will kick off its season at No. 12 Auburn on Sept. 2 (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network).

UCLA, Wisconsin reach agreement on future home-and-home

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Still a dozen years down the scheduling road, a future Big Ten-Pac-12 series has nonetheless been revealed.

UCLA and Wisconsin announced Tuesday that the two football programs have reached an agreement on a future home-and-home.  The two teams play at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 15, 2029, and at Camp Randall Stadium on Sept. 7, 2030.

“UCLA is one of the premier programs in college football,” UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said in a statement. “We had some memorable bowl games when I was on the sidelines but this is a great opportunity for us to play them at Camp Randall. Non-conference scheduling is always a challenge but the folks at UCLA have been great to deal with and we look forward to the series.”

The two teams have met 11 times previously, the most recent coming in the 2000 Sun Bowl.  The last regular season meeting between the programs came in 1982.

The Bruins own a 7-4 advantage in the all-time series, including a perfect 5-0 mark in Madison.  The Badgers, though, have won the last three meetings, all of which came in the postseason and the first two of which were Rose Bowl victories.