Ex-Boise State coach Houston Nutt sues Ole Miss, alleging smear campaign

Houston Nutt in his final season at Ole Miss.
Houston Nutt in his final season at Ole Miss. AP

Former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, who was the head coach at Boise State in 1997 before moving to the Southeastern Conference, has filed a civil lawsuit against the university and its athletics foundation, alleging a breach of his severance agreement. He claims that school officials made false statements about him during an ongoing NCAA investigation.

The lawsuit seeking compensatory and punitive damages for lost wages, emotional distress, embarrassment and attorney’s fees was filed Wednesday in federal court in Mississippi. It alleges that coach Hugh Freeze and other school officials created a “false narrative” in an effort to place the primary blame on Nutt for the NCAA investigation.

Nutt, who went 5-6 in his one season at BSU and then was hired to be the coach at Arkansas, was the Ole Miss football coach from 2008-11, posting a 24-26 record. He went there after going 75-48 at Arkansas from 1998-2007.

Freeze has led the Rebels the past five seasons, and Ole Miss has been under investigation by the NCAA for nearly five years. Ole Miss released a statement from general counsel Lee Tyner that said the school has not been served with the lawsuit.

“We are aware it has been filed,” Tyner said. “We will carefully review Coach Nutt’s claims and respond in due course.”

Nutt’s lawyer, Walter Morrison, said he didn’t want to “try the case in the media.”

The lawsuit alleges that Freeze, athletic director Ross Bjork and others were “determined to deflect and delay the potential damage” from the NCAA investigation. Ole Miss received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA in 2016 that alleged 13 rules violations, including nine that happened during Freeze’s tenure. The school received another NOA in 2017 that added eight violations.