Put simply, Houston Nutt won. Put more colorfully, Houston Nutt is a mad man and, my God, if anybody out there has slighted him, their best bet is either fleeing the country or submitting defeat before it’s too late.
This all became clear Thursday night, when USA Today dropped its bombshell report, in which it revealed now-former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze made a one-minute phone call to an escort service on his school-issued cell phone. Even though Freeze was allowed to redact his own phone records for some fucking reason, he left the number on there and cried misdial when Yahoo Sports asked him about it; that excuse fell apart after Ole Miss administrators took a stroll through his other 39,000 calls.
Ole Miss chancellor Jeffrey Vitter spoke alongside athletic director Ross Bjork at the press conference held to announce Freeze’s possibly sex-related axing, revealing as little as he could (Freeze confirmed “a pattern of personal misconduct” to Vitter and Bjork), yet leaving enough meat on the bone to confirm what the USA Today report hinted at: Hugh Freeze fucked, or at least tried to fuck. And now, thanks to Houston Nutt and his legal team, everyone knows it.
The calls were brought to the attention of the Ole Miss brass after one of Nutt’s lawyers, Thomas Mars, filed a public records request for Freeze’s phone records over a six-day period that included Jan. 21, 2016, the day Freeze rang the escort service number. The records request was brought to the attention of the AP, Yahoo Sports, and USA Today after they uncovered an email Mars sent to Ole Miss general counsel Lee Tyner last Thursday, informing him of a “phone call Coach Freeze made that would be highly embarrassing for all of you and extremely difficult to explain.”
The records request was made as a part of Mars’s research for Nutt’s lawsuit against Ole Miss and Freeze—Nutt is currently seeking a fat lump of cash for the smear campaign he alleges Freeze, Bjork, and sports information director Kyle Campbell ran against him in order to pin the majority of the school’s recent NCAA violations on him. Mars was the attorney that turned up the phone calls between the Ole Miss athletic officials and seven journalists the school fed anti-Nutt stories to, matching the calls with corresponding articles and tweets. At SEC Media Days last week, Freeze no-commented his way through lawsuit-related questions, adding only that “I think a lot of Houston,” and noting that the timing of the lawsuit was “ironic.”
Mars’s FOIA for the phone call was apparently filed in an attempt to uncover more instances of Freeze spreading misinformation to journalists. The timeline of the lawsuit’s research shows that all six of the journalists cited (Pat Forde, Matt Wyatt, Chris Low, Neal McCready, Bruce Feldman, and David Brandt) in Nutt’s suit published information leaked to them by Ole Miss on Jan. 29, just eight days after Freeze rang the escort line.
So the simple explanation is that Freeze fucked himself by calling an escort service right around the time he was planting stories about Nutt. Mars (or, more likely, a very lucky law clerk that is likely biting into a nice reward porterhouse right about now) could have stumbled upon one of the random calls, realized what it meant, and then tipped off one of the press outlets, or at least intentionally left some electronic bread crumbs in the form of an email to Tyner.
The cynics and drama-lovers out there will quickly point out that a public records request covering a six-day period that just so happened to turn up a a call to an escort service is just a bit too convenient, and that maybe Nutt’s team knew exactly what they were looking for.
(It’s worth noting that Nutt is an experienced player of the grand FOIA game, as he himself was burned a decade ago when a public records request turned up over 2,000 texts and phone calls he exchanged with a local female anchor over a three-month period.)
Regardless of initial intentions, Nutt’s victory, as far as we know, is entirely one of vengeance, not a strategic legal move. Neither the lawsuit nor the NCAA investigation required knowledge of Freeze’s possible sexcapades to be made public; this move was one of a man that felt he had been unduly wronged, fighting for nothing more than his honor (and punitive damages, of course).
We reached out to Mars to ask about the timeline and whether Nutt’s legal team was aware of the escort service prior to their FOIA request, but have yet to speak with him. Until then, Walter Morrison, another one of Nutt’s lawyers, and his statement to the Associated Press will have to do:
The revelations that have come tonight and the reason for Freeze having to resign really bears on his character. And I think it is further evidence of the fact that we have said all along and that is the public persona of Hugh Freeze is not the true Hugh Freeze. His efforts to do everything he could to blame all of the university’s problems on Houston Nutt were carefully orchestrated and were just flat false. This is just a prime example of what we have tried to show in our complaint.
I don’t think Houston Nutt needs vindication. We drafted a very detailed complaint. He is complete and total victim in this and he doesn’t need vindication. It’s sad that the university did not deal with this the way they should have. And if they had dealt with Houston Nutt appropriately to begin with he would not have been besmirched, he would have been treated appropriately and fairly consistent with the severance agreement that all of them signed. And interestingly enough, Hugh Freeze would probably still have his job.
If you know anything about this spectacular shitshow, or the NCAA investigations or the lawsuit, contact us.