Houston Nutt would settle lawsuit against Ole Miss for apology

Houston Nutt's attorney has offered to settle the former coach's federal lawsuit against Ole Miss if the university apologizes for making inaccurate statements about him to the media and donates $500,000 to establish a state commission on sports ethics, sources with knowledge of the case told ESPN on Monday morning.

Last month, Nutt filed a lawsuit against Ole Miss and the university's board of trustees, alleging that former coach Hugh Freeze, athletic director Ross Bjork and other athletic department officials violated a separation agreement with Nutt by making disparaging comments about him in off-the-record conversations with reporters.

Nutt's attorney, Thomas Mars of Little Rock, Arkansas, wouldn't confirm details of the proposed settlement, which he sent to Ole Miss officials on Friday. University attorneys couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

"The settlement proposal we presented to Ole Miss [on Friday] is focused on the apology Houston Nutt has consistently asked for and fully deserves," Mars said. "After all, there's no longer any doubt about what happened here.

"More than a few unbiased sports reporters have talked openly on the radio and in podcasts in recent weeks about how Hugh Freeze 'lied' to the press in order to falsely portray Houston Nutt as the primary target of the NCAA's investigation. What's more, other journalists have come out of the woodwork since the lawsuit was filed to share with us their personal recollections of how they too were duped by Coach Freeze. If for no other reason, Ole Miss owes Houston an apology."

According to the lawsuit, Nutt alleges that school officials defamed his character by telling media members in off-the-record conversations from 2014 to 2017 that most of the rules violations that Ole Miss committed in connection with an NCAA investigation took place when Nutt was still coaching the Rebels. Those statements violated his separation agreement, the lawsuit alleges.

"Ole Miss was contractually prohibited from making any statement whatsoever, truthful or not, that may damage or harm Coach Nutt's reputation," the lawsuit says.

The NCAA sent Ole Miss a notice of allegations in January 2016 and an amended version in February 2017, which includes 21 alleged violations of NCAA rules. The notice includes 17 alleged violations that were committed during Freeze's tenure.

Freeze resigned on July 20, after the university found a "troubling pattern" of calls in his phone records, according to Bjork. Freeze, 47, guided the Rebels to a 39-25 record and two New Year's Six bowl appearances in five seasons.

On July 24, ESPN reported that Steve Robertson, a recruiting writer for a website that covers Mississippi State sports, discovered the phone call that Freeze made to an escort service that led to his abrupt resignation. A call to a 313 area-code number made on Jan. 19, 2016, lasting one minute, was made to a number connected with several advertisements for female escorts.