Although it’s already grown to feel like one of this nation’s landmark lawsuits, Houston Nutt’s battle with Ole Miss officially came to a close Monday evening, just three months after the ex-Rebels coach vengefully set his old program aflame.
In a joint statement, Ole Miss announced that the school reached a settlement agreement with Nutt—he requested in August that the school formally apologize for spreading lies about NCAA violations taking place during his run as head coach of the football team and donate $500,000 to start a Mississippi state sports ethics commission. While there was no mention of Ole Miss having or contributing to The Ethics, the school did issue the following apology:
Certain statements made by University employees in January 2016 appear to have contributed to misleading media reports about Coach Nutt. To the extent any such statements harmed Coach Nutt’s reputation, the University apologizes, as this was not the intent.The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations dated January 22, 2016, did not name or implicate Coach Nutt in any misconduct, and it would have been inappropriate for any University employee to suggest otherwise.
For his part, though, Nutt kept his statement short and sweet:
I am pleased to put the lawsuit behind me. Best wishes to the future of the Ole Miss Football program.
Nutt almost certainly squeezed a sizable chunk from Ole Miss’s bank account, either for himself or a future commission that will presumably be tasked with making sure college coaches don’t do things like call escorts from their school-issued cell phone. His lawyer, Thomas Mars, went on-record with Pat Forde 10 days after the lawsuit was filed to say that Nutt would not accept a mere apology at that point, and given how they’ve handled this case, I’m not getting into the business of doubting Houston Nutt.
The former Rebels coach filed a lawsuit against his former employer in late July, claiming Ole Miss had violated the severance agreement the two parties signed in 2011, which stated that university officials wouldn’t say anything to harm Nutt’s future coaching prospects. Nutt and Mars claimed this section of the agreement was breached in January 2016, when reports from numerous outlets cited anonymous Ole Miss sources as saying the majority of the football program’s NCAA violations occurred under Nutt and not under then-head coach Hugh Freeze.
Phone records—the same ones that would eventually get Freeze for allegedly ringing up escorts—showed that Rebels athletic director Ross Bjork, sports information director Kyle Campbell, and Freeze were the sources in question. Initially attempting to handle it without a lawsuit, Nutt demanded Ole Miss and the athletics officials apologize and retract their statements. Ole Miss called his bluff, so Nutt, with some public records assistance from Mars and author Steve Robertson, engulfed the program in the most entertaining PR shitshow college sports has featured in years.
Again, if we’re to believe Nutt, all this—the lawsuit, the “moral turpitude,” the escorts, the hilariously solemn press conference to discuss Freeze’s possible sex-having, the fact that Ole Miss has to continue to align with Freeze as it fights the NCAA charges—could have been saved with a simple apology.