Houston Nutt has exercised his rematch clause.
On Wednesday morning, Nutt’s lawsuit against Ole Miss, its athletic foundation, and the IHL Board of Trustees — which cited a breach of contract, a breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, and punitive damages — was officially refiled in Lafayette County Circuit Court.
This complaint, similar to Nutt’s initial one, is centered on the actions of Hugh Freeze, Ross Bjork and Ole Miss officials, who allegedly led a misinformation campaign against Nutt, which the complaint stated was a violation of Nutt’s severance agreement.
The complaint cited the agreement and stated: “The language did not just prohibit Ole Miss and OMAF (the Ole Miss Athletic Foundation) from making false statements that could harm Coach Nutt’s reputation as a football coach; it prohibited Ole Miss and OMAF from making any statements that could result in such reputational harm to Coach Nutt — whether true or false.”
The interpretation of the severance agreement has been a point of contention for Nutt’s representatives, Thomas Mars and Walter Morrison, and the university and its athletic foundation. Ole Miss’ side contends the agreement was merely a directive and was aimed at a control group, which doesn’t include Freeze, Bjork and others.
Nutt’s side obviously doesn’t see it that way. This complaint also outlines phone calls of Freeze, Bjork, current Ole Miss administrators Kyle Campbell and Michael Thompson and former administrator Stephen Ponder that were made to several journalists around the arrival of Ole Miss’ January 2016 Notice of Allegations from the NCAA’s enforcement staff.
Nutt’s counsel alleged the university also spread the false narrative through texts and direct messages, and it's also in possession of a screenshot of a text from an Ole Miss administrator to a reporter, which states the violations were about “Tunsil and Nutt.”
The complaint alleged Freeze possessed two burner phones, which it states "is logical to assume" were used to spread a narrative about Nutt to journalists.
Among other differences in this complaint, Nutt’s representation highlights Bjork’s communication with Brian Curtis, CEO and president of Paradigm Sports Inc., who is painted as a crisis communications consultant in the complaint.
The complaint also alleged Bjork applied a double standard in the NCAA investigation with the way he handled former women’s basketball coach Adrian Wiggins’ firing and Freeze’s NCAA issues.
The original complaint was filed in federal court on July 12. It was dismissed on Aug. 9 by a United States District Judge.
"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 order stated.
Since then, Mars has consistently stated Nutt’s intentions to refile in state court. Before the suit was dismissed, Mars sent Ole Miss a settlement proposal, which reportedly requested $500,000 to fund an integrity for college sports commission and an apology to Nutt.
No settlement was reached by the two parties. Throughout the process, Ole Miss has stated it doesn’t believe its actions warrant an apology or additional payment to Nutt.
Meanwhile, Mars is very, very persistent, so this has the potential to be a long process.