Ole Miss finds itself in the middle of the biggest scandal in college football after head coach Hugh Freeze was forced to resign when his phone records showed he made a call to an escort. According to reports, the connection between Freeze and the escort was pointed out by former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt’s attorney, Thomas Mars, in what can only be called one of the ugliest divorces in college football. If you want to bet on NCAA football, check out our college football betting odds this season.
When Ole Miss parted ways with Nutt in 2011, top school official signed an agreement not to disparage their former coach or make any accusations that could damage his reputation.
The agreement, which was confidential until it was released last week, was a key piece of the defamation lawsuit Nutt filed against the school, which alleged that top school officials, including Freeze, conducted a campaign of misinformation trying to place blame for the school’s numerous NCAA violations on Nutt.
Despite the lawsuit, Ole Miss officials refused to apologize to Nutt and rejected a settlement offer that included a public apology to Nutt and a $500,000 donation to fund a committee for ethics in Mississippi collegiate sports.
On August 3, Ole Miss Athletics Foundation attorney, David Kaufman, told Clarion-Ledger that during the 2011 negotiations of Nutt’s severance agreement, Nutt’s lawyer requested that a non-disparagement provision be added to the agreement, but Ole Miss refused the request.
Kaufman said the school decided instead to give a directive to certain officials not to disparage Nutt, and as far as they are concerned, they have kept their end of the bargain.
Nutt’s lawyer challenged Kaufman’s explanation and said he intends to do so again when he re-files the lawsuit in State court after a federal court dismissed the lawsuit last week citing jurisdictional grounds.
Nutt’s attorney agreed with the motion to dismiss the case in federal court but said he will include more information in his new lawsuit. He added that there is no court in the country that would interpret the language in the settlement to mean only a handful of officials were prohibited from disparaging Nutt, while everyone else was free to do so.
Mars said the cardinal rule when it comes to cases like this is determining the intent of the parties. He said it is up to the judge to determine intent and he doesn’t think any lawyer would look at the language and make the determination themselves.
Mars’ original lawsuit initially tried to link Freeze to a reporter he believed Freeze gave misleading information about Nutt to, in an attempt to distance himself from the NCAA violations. During the course of his investigation, he noticed a call log to an escort service that lasted one minute.
The call to the escort service forced Ole Miss to launch an investigation into Freeze and eventually led to the coach resigning his position.
While the call to the escort service was the primary reason given for Freeze’s resignation, there has been speculation that the investigation revealed other NCAA violations. Since the school refused to discuss it or release their findings, we won’t know for sure unless it is leaked by someone with knowledge of the investigation.