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Ole Miss files motion to dismiss Houston Nutt’s lawsuit

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Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss has filed a motion to dismiss former Rebels coach Houston Nutt’s lawsuit against the school and its board of trustees.

Ole Miss filed the motion Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, according to the Clarion-Ledger.

“Nutt has attempted to create jurisdiction where none exists by misrepresenting the citizenship of the University of Mississippi and the IHL Board,” the response read. “As a court of limited jurisdiction, this Court should dismiss this action in its entirety.

“Alternatively, this Court should dismiss the claims against the University and the IHL Board based on their Eleventh Amendment immunity.”

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Nutt’s lawsuit, which was filed on July 12, is against Ole Miss itself, its athletics foundation and its board of trustees. He claims he was defamed in the school’s handling of an NCAA investigation into its football program.

The years-long NCAA investigation says the Ole Miss football program committed 21 rules violations over several years, including 15 deemed Level I – the worst possible offense. Nutt was coach from 2008-11, when only four violations (all Level I) allegedly took place.

Nutt said the school attempted to portray him as a bigger part of the investigation than what actually turned out to be the case. His complaint targets former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, as well as Rebels athletic director Ross Bjork and associate athletic director for communications Kyle Campbell.

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Freeze resigned as coach on July 20 when an open records request filed by Nutt’s attorney, Thomas Mars, revealed that he had called an escort service on Jan. 19, 2016 on his university-issued phone. A deeper investigation into Freeze’s phone records made by the school found a “pattern of misconduct.”

Ole Miss and its board of trustees said in its response that it should not be a part of Nutt’s lawsuit.

RELATED: Hugh Freeze’s phone call to escort service was discovered by a Mississippi State fan

“Like other public Mississippi universities, the University of Mississippi is an ‘arm of the State of Mississippi’ immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment,” the response read. “The same is true for the IHL board. For this reason, the University and the IHL Board are alter egos of the State, not ‘citizens’ for diversity jurisdiction purposes.

“Nutt alleged diversity jurisdiction as the lone basis for filing his action in this Court. Diversity of citizenship does not exist, and this Court lacks judicial authority over this dispute. This Court should dismiss this action.”

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(You can follow Kevin Connell on Twitter @_KevinConnell)

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