Former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt has sued the university, alleging defamation of character related to how the school handled an NCAA investigation.
The civil suit, filed Wednesday in federal court in Oxford, Mississippi, alleges that current Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze and other school officials created a "false narrative" in an effort to place primary blame on Nutt for the NCAA investigation.
Nutt seeks damages to cover "lost wages, emotional distress, embarrassment, attorney's fees and punitive damages."
The suit levels its harshest allegations at Freeze, alleging that he conducted off-the-record conversations with sports journalists as part of a "smear campaign."
The lawsuit says that it "is common knowledge among sports journalists that Coach Freeze does not take kindly to criticism." It also characterizes Freeze as "consistently exhibiting behaviors that are massively defensive," "going to extraordinary lengths through social media and otherwise to promote his self-image as a deeply spiritual Godly man who's done nothing wrong and is being persecuted," and "attempting to cultivate personal relationships with sports journalists for the purpose of promoting his self-image through positive news stories.
"These personal characteristics contributed to Coach Freeze's decision to play the leading role in the self-serving smear campaign that foreseeably damaged Coach Nutt's reputation," the lawsuit says.
The suit also accuses Freeze of "exploiting [journalists'] trust and deliberately misleading them into tweeting and writing news stories that further Coach Freeze's agenda."
Freeze told the SEC Network on Thursday at SEC media days in Hoover, Alabama, that he "was disappointed by the timing of it, for sure," with the lawsuit coming the day before his team's appearance at the event.
"Our players don't have a clue about the lawsuit," Freeze said.
"We've been responsible of what we've done," he said of the NCAA investigation, citing a reduction of scholarships and self-imposed bowl ban.
Ole Miss released a statement from general counsel Lee Tyner that said the school has not yet been served with the lawsuit.
"We are aware it has been filed," Tyner said. "We were provided a copy a short time ago. We will carefully review Coach Nutt's claims and respond in due course."
Nutt's lawyer, Walter Morrison, said he didn't want to "try the case in the media."
Nutt was the Ole Miss football coach from 2008 to '11. Freeze has led the Rebels the past five seasons.
Ole Miss has been under investigation by the NCAA for nearly five years. Freeze is scheduled to speak at SEC media days on Thursday.
ESPN's Alex Scarborough? and? The Associated Press contributed to this report.