Hugh Freeze says timing of Houston Nutt’s Ole Miss lawsuit ‘ironic’

Hugh Freeze says timing of Houston Nutt’s Ole Miss lawsuit ‘ironic’

Hugh Freeze was putting off the inevitable.

For more than 15 minutes, the Ole Miss coach made opening statements during his time at the podium during the SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama, on Thursday.

He talked about anything and everything except the one thing people wanted to know about: Former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt’s civil lawsuit against the Rebels for defamation of character.

Finally, at the end of his remarks he said, “I want to talk about something other than all of the drama that’s been going on, and I really want to get on the field so these kids can dive into their craft of becoming a better football players and student-athletes.”

First question: “I’m sure you’re aware that the lawsuit Houston Nutt filed yesterday. He mentioned you and the administration creating a smear campaign. I wonder what your reaction to all that is.”

“I would absolutely love to share my opinion on it,” Freeze said. “Unfortunately, it’s a legal case, and I can’t comment.”

At one point Wednesday, he did make an indirect comment about Nutt, saying, “It’s a lot we inherited and caused in some cases,” Freeze said, per ESPN.

On Wednesday, Nutt filed a civil lawsuit against the university and its athletics foundation, alleging a breach of his severance agreement because of false statements he says school officials made 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 primary blame on Nutt for the NCAA investigation instead of Freeze.

On Thursday, Freeze said, “It seems a bit ironic that the timing was what it was, but it is what it is.”

When Freeze wasn’t going on and on about things other than the lawsuit, he was being asked about, well, the lawsuit.

“I’m constantly self-evaluating myself and how we’ve handled it,” he said. I’m certain when it’s all over, we’ll sit down and re-group and over a whole day period we will go over the entire four or five years and say, ‘maybe we should have done this differently or that.'”

Freeze said he has had individual meeting with all his players and been “transparent” with them.

“Integrity, I had to re-evaluate,” Freeze said. “Integrity is not always doing what’s right. I used to think that, but none of us would have integrity if that was really how we defined it because I doubt any of us have done the right thing all of the time.

“Integrity is when an issue arises. You own it … and move forward.”

The lawsuit alleges that Freeze, athletic director Ross Bjork and others were “determined to deflect and delay the potential damage” from the NCAA investigation while the program was trying to maintain momentum and recruit at a high level.

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 more violations, bringing the total to 21, including 17 that happened under Freeze.

“We have taken responsibility for the things we’ve done all along,” Freeze said.

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Published at Thu, 13 Jul 2017 18:34:18 +0000