Nutt’s Ole Miss law­suit dis­missed

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

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.


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