Ole Miss officials were told per a 2011 separation agreement not to make statements that could harm former coach Houston Nutt’s reputation as a football coach, USA TODAY reported Friday night.
Nutt’s non-disparagement clause in the agreement has been a pivotal part of the defamation lawsuit he filed last month against Ole Miss and its athletics foundation for allegedly portraying him as a bigger part of the NCAA investigation into the football program than what actually has turned out to be the case.
“Outside of any obligation, legal or otherwise, to reveal the terms of this Agreement to third parties, the University agrees not to release or disclose information related to this agreement,” the clause reads. “The University further agrees to direct members of the control groups for the Foundation and for UM not to make any statement relative to Nutt’s tenure as an employee that may damage or harm Nutt’s reputation as a football coach.”
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.
Ole Miss filed a motion to dismiss the suit against the school and its board of trustees on July 29, which was granted by a federal judge Wednesday. Nutt’s attorneys, though, plan to refile the lawsuit in Mississippi state court this upcoming week.
Ole Miss also recently rejected a settlement in which Ole Miss was asked to pay $500,000 to fund an integrity for college sports commission and send an apology to Nutt, the latter of which he requested from the school before the lawsuit was filed on July 12.
Former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, who Nutt has accused along with athletic director Ross Bjork as leading the alleged smear campaign against him, 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.”
Freeze was the Rebels’ coach when most of the alleged NCAA violations took place.
Earlier this week, Freeze reportedly threatened a Washington Post reporter with arrest after he attempted to question him at his house about former Ole Miss staffer Barney Farrar, a key figure in the NCAA investigation.
Ole Miss is scheduled to appear before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions on Sept. 11.
(You can follow Kevin Connell on Twitter @_KevinConnell)
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