SEC Media Days: Houston Nutt lawsuit, Hugh Freeze, and Ole Miss fans

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 25: Head coach Hugh Freeze of the Mississippi Rebels reacts to a call during the game against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on October 25, 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 25: Head coach Hugh Freeze of the Mississippi Rebels reacts to a call during the game against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on October 25, 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /
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Houston Nutt lawsuit turns SEC Media Days show into a soap opera. How did Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss fans respond?

SEC Media Days cannot end soon enough for Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss fans. The atmosphere was intensely negative which might explain why Freeze brought two of his linemen to Birmingham. In an emergency, they would make good bodyguards.

On Wednesday Houston Nutt and his lawyer turned up the heat on Ole Miss, particularly on Hugh Freeze.  Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports reported a lawsuit filed by Nutt claims,

"Nutt filed a civil lawsuit against the University of Mississippi and the Ole Miss Athletic Foundation on Wednesday, alleging breach of contract via defamation of character."

When the ostensibly damaged party is a ‘public figure’ defamation of character lawsuits are very difficult to win. All college football coaches are public figures. Perhaps Nutt’s attorney has a strategy based on a future out-of-court settlement.

If not, Nutt’s attorney must prove ‘malice’ by Ole Miss through its deliberate publishing of information, known by Hugh Freeze and AD Ross Bjork as untrue. Absent that, Nutt’s lawyer must prove Ole Miss made public statements with a ‘reckless disregard’ for the facts.

Before Ole Miss admitted to eight Level 1 NCAA violations under Freeze, the school claimed the football violations mostly occurred while Nutt was the Ole Miss coach. As reported by Forde, the lawsuit says,

"“Coach Freeze falsely stated that most, if not all, of the NCAA’s allegations involved ‘Houston Nutt’ and his staff. At the time Coach Freeze made these statements, he was fully aware that they were patently false, yet he continued to make such statements, severely damaging Coach Nutt’s reputation.”"

Hugh Freeze is following sound legal advice that he cannot discuss the case. His opening statement at SEC Media Days on Thursday was so long, media representatives called it a filibuster. The longer the statement, the less time for questions.

Nutt may or may not be successful with his litigation. Successful or not, it adds more burden on Ole Miss to defend and deflect. The bigger problem for Ole Miss is the NCAA finding the school committed 21 football violations, 17 of which took place while Freeze has been the head coach.

Several weeks ago we posted How much trouble Ole Miss faces. A week later we added, Ole Miss not willing to pay the full price for mistakes.

Let’s take a sampling of responses to the current Ole Miss soap opera.

Next: 30 Great Tide Players who were 3-Star Recruits

The Ole Miss mess is far from over but no filibuster and no amount of preaching will make either the NCAA violations or the Nutt lawsuit go away. Ole Miss fans continue to defend Freeze and more than any other fan base can’t wait for football season.