NUTT: Proposes settlement.
, the Friday Firm lawyer representing former Arkansas and Ole Miss football coach Houston Nutt
in Nutt's lawsuit against Ole Miss, sent along a statement last night on a settlement offer he has presented Ole Miss on behalf of Nutt. Mars did not provide the details of the agreement.
Nutt sued Ole Miss earlier this month, alleging defamation of character related to an NCAA investigation into the university. Nutt said Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze, who succeeded Nutt, and other school officials had tried to pin recruiting violations on Nutt. Mars later pointed Ole Miss to phone records, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, that suggested Freeze had called an escort service. Freeze initially said it was a misdial, but Ole Miss officials said they found a pattern and Freeze was forced to resign.
Here's Mars' statement:
The settlement proposal we presented to Ole Miss earlier today is focused on the apology Houston Nutt has consistently asked for and fully deserves. After all, there's no longer any doubt about what happened here.
More than a few unbiased sports reporters have talked openly on the radio and on podcasts in recent weeks about how Hugh Freeze "lied" to the press in order to falsely portray Houston Nutt as the primary target of the NCAA's investigation. What's more, other journalists have come out of the woodwork since the lawsuit was filed to share with us their personal recollections of how they too were duped by Coach Freeze. So purely from a moral standpoint, if for no other reason, Ole Miss owes Houston an apology.
Contrary to what some people have suggested about Coach Nutt's motives, the settlement proposal we submitted today isn't designed to put money in Houston's bank account. This lawsuit was never about money. Beginning many months ago and continuing until today, Houston's issues with Ole Miss have been about honor, the preservation of his well-earned good name and reputation for integrity, and accountability.
With that in mind, what we proposed earlier today creates an opportunity for Ole Miss to do something positive for student athletes all across Mississippi, for Ole Miss to have a leadership role in that effort, and to "do the right thing" by Coach Nutt.
Given the alternatives at hand, it's difficult to imagine a more selfless and virtuous way for Houston to clear his name while giving Ole Miss an easy and painless exit from this unpleasant litigation.
We expect Ole Miss to be very pleased with our proposal and look forward to hearing from the University's lawyers.
Earlier in the week, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger got Ole Miss's perspective on the Nutt lawsuit:
"In characterizing the severance agreement in the Complaint, Mr. Nutt’s lawyer has selectively omitted key language from the relevant sentence," said David Kaufman, the attorney for the Ole Miss Athletic Foundation. "In the 2011 negotiations of the severance agreement, Mr. Nutt’s lawyer at the time asked for a non-disparagement provision, but the request was refused. Instead, we simply agreed to give a directive to certain people, and we did exactly what we promised."
The university's outside counsel contends the directive was aimed at a control group, which didn't include Hugh Freeze, Ross Bjork, or Kyle Campbell, Ole Miss' associate athletic director for communications. They also argued the directive wasn't an ongoing stipulation. Most of the members of the control group have since departed the university, including former chancellor Dan Jones and athletic director Pete Boone.
Thomas Mars, Nutt's attorney, contends there's a provision in the severance agreement which prohibits Nutt from disclosing the agreement. So instead of using the specific language, he paraphrased it in the initial complaint in order to avoid a breach.
As far as the directive and its interpretation, Mars, who said he's going up against some of the finest lawyers in Mississippi, said Thursday: “The law in Mississippi and elsewhere thoroughly rejects interpretations of contracts that are absurd and nonsensical."