Nutt’s Ole Miss lawsuit dismissed
Former Mississippi coach Houston Nutt’s civil lawsuit against the school and its athletics foundation has been dismissed by a federal judge.
The lawsuit was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Neal B. Biggers Jr. without prejudice, meaning it can be refiled.
In the one-page filing, Biggers wrote: “Defendants argue that jurisdiction is lacking because both the University of Mississippi and the Board of Trustees for Institutions of Higher Learning are arms of the state of Mississippi and, consequently, are not ‘citizens’ of any state for purposes of diversity jurisdiction.
“In response to the instant motion, the plaintiff concedes that the defendants’ argument is meritorious and asserts ‘it is agreed that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.’ The court points out that the claims filed by the plaintiff involve no federal statutes or U.S. Constitution claims and are all state law claims, and therefore, since
the issues are not between ‘citizens of different states,’ the federal court lacks jurisdiction under the pleadings as presented.”
Nutt filed the lawsuit against Ole Miss on July 12. The former Ole Miss coach was alleging a breach of his severance agreement because of false statements he said school officials made during an ongoing NCAA investigation of the school.
The lawsuit stated then-Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, Athletic Director Ross Bjork and other officials violated his separation agreement by creating a “false narrative” in an effort to place primary blame on Nutt for the NCAA investigation instead of Freeze.
“Ole Miss was contractually prohibited from making any statement whatsoever, truthful or not, that may damage or harm Coach Nutt’s reputation,” the lawsuit states.
Nutt’s attorney, Thomas Mars of Little Rock, released a statement Wednesday acknowledging the federal suit’s dismissal. Mars said he planned to “file an updated state court lawsuit next week with more details than those that were known to us when we first filed suit.”
Nutt has offered to settle the case if the university will apologize for its inaccurate
statements about Nutt and if the school will donate $500,000 toward establishing a state commission on sports ethics.
Ole Miss said Wednesday that it is scheduled to appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions at a hearing Sept. 11 in Covington, Ky.
The NCAA sent Ole Miss a notice of allegations in January 2016 and an amended version in February 2017, which includes 21 alleged violations of NCAA rules. The notice includes 17 alleged violations that were committed during Freeze’s tenure.
Even though the federal lawsuit has been dismissed, its damage to Ole Miss was substantial. In the process of doing research for the lawsuit, Nutt’s attorneys requested some of Freeze’s phone records, which eventually revealed a call to a 313 area-code number (Tampa, Fla.) made Jan. 19, 2016, lasting one minute. The number was connected with several advertisements for female escorts.
The revelation of that call led to an Ole Miss internal investigation that resulted in Freeze’s resignation July 20 after five seasons. The school said it found a “pattern of personal misconduct” that started with the discovery of the one-minute call.
Freeze, 47, guided the Rebels to a 39-25 record and two New Year’s Six bowl appearances in five seasons.