If only Ole Miss had told Nutt it was sorry
Ole Miss’ mess is spreading to Starkville, Miss., Memphis and even Little Rock, and it will hurt the Rebels football program in the months to come and could bruise Mississippi State’s.
It all started when former Arkansas and Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, a native of Little Rock, filed suit against Ole Miss for breach of contract and breach of good faith because of an alleged smear campaign in 2016.
When Nutt was fired at Ole Miss in 2011, he settled for a lump sum of $4.3 million, and the school agreed it would never do anything that would disparage Nutt’s reputation.
But when Ole Miss was served notice of an NCAA investigation, Nutt contends former head coach Hugh Freeze told recruits and reporters the violations were for actions that occurred when Nutt was the head coach.
As it turns out, of the 21 football violations uncovered — including 17 classified as major — only four were when Nutt was the Rebels head coach. It has been reported Nutt was not named in the NCAA investigation.
Freeze, a former high school coach in Memphis, was named in 17 violations.
This is not just a brush fire between two schools who hate each other and are pointing fingers and calling each other names.
It has become a polarizing uncivil war between two fan bases who both believe they are being wronged.
No matter how intense this gets it will not affect the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville because it is not a party to any of this.
The reason Little Rock is even a footnote is because Nutt wanted to hire the best attorney possible, and he did so in Thomas Mars, who is a fearless top shelf trial lawyer for the Friday Firm.
He also has experience as general counsel of Wal-Mart and served as director of the Arkansas State Police.
Mars is to lawyering what Tom Brady is to quarterbacking.
Nutt is not speaking on the record about the lawsuit or of what is going on in Oxford, but Mars said Nutt was not associated with the phone number that led to Freeze’s firing.
Mars’ biggest concern may be winning a lawsuit against Ole Miss in the state of Mississippi despite the fact it was filed in federal court.
Ole Miss already has asked the NCAA for two Mississippi State football players to be present for questioning when it faces the sanctions committee.
The Mississippi State players allegedly told an NCAA investigator they were offered illegal benefits by the Rebels.
Former Ole Miss player Laremy Tunsil sacked the Rebels on NFL draft night in 2016 when he said some of Freeze’s assistants gave him money.
The simmering at Ole Miss blew up when Freeze was fired for “a concerning pattern” of calls that led the Rebels leaders to believe he had violated the morals clause of his contract.
Mars had shared some phone records with Steve Robertson, a recruiting writer for a Mississippi State website.
Robertson is a radical Bulldogs fan. He discovered the phone number to an escort service, and it has turned out to be critical.
Then on Friday, Ole Miss finally released the names of 12 of the 14 boosters who have been accused of providing Ole Miss players and recruits with illegal benefits.
Now more lawsuits have been filed, and more than likely this is just the start of a long legal battle. It is no doubt taking the rivalry between Ole Miss and Mississippi State to a new level.
The only association it has with Arkansas is because Nutt wanted a great lawyer, who at first simply asked Ole Miss to apologize to Nutt. At that point, the school was heavily defending Freeze and refused to say it was sorry.
If it had, this wouldn’t be a story that is going to be played out for a very long time.