The Ole Miss AD's follow up investigation

The AD made this solemn pronouncement during the press conference that:

“We initially attributed this call to a misdialed number. As part of our core values in running the athletics program, we have an obligation to do the right thing, so we proactively looked into the rest of his phone records”

The facts and timing suggest that what actually happened is that the defense lawyers alerted Ole Miss to the problem after HDN filed suit and they began to review the documents which would likely be disclosed during the discovery process.

The pre-suit FOI request from Nutt’s lawyer uncovered the single call to the escort service, which Freeze apparently overlooked when he was redacting personal calls from the phone records produced in response to that request. Nutt’s lawyer sent an e-mail about this call to Ole Miss well before suit was filed. Ole Miss asked Freeze about it, and bought into his explanation of the misdial. Suit does not get filed until July. In the meantime Ole Miss sends Freeze to SEC media days and continues to act like there is nothing to it.

Suit gets filed. The defendants hire defense counsel. Defense counsel naturally wants to look at the evidence likely to be brought up at trial. The phone records produced during the discovery process can’t be redacted for personal calls, so Ole Miss’s lawyers see all the calls, and it quickly becomes apparent that Freeze is a long-time friend of the working girl. The lawyers tell the client the bad news, and within a few days of suit being filed, Freeze resigns.

So it is very likely that the Ole Miss Athletic department never reviewed the entire phone records at any time prior to suit being filed, even when Nutt’s lawyer told them about the one escort service call. Based on the timing, it was only after suit was filed and their lawyers told them they had a problem that they did anything about it. The AD and his chancellor were just spinning like mad.

I think all that’s plausible. However, I disagree with one item–that the defendants (Ole Miss in this case) only got lawyers after the suit got filed. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts OM had lawyers involved before that. They knew this was coming. Freeze probably had a lawyer, too, but his lawyers wouldn’t have alerted OM to the problem. If they knew about it, they’d have advised Hugh to be candid with OM. At least I think they would have. Not likely they’d have told him it was something that’d stay hidden. Of course, they might not have scoured the numbers like Nutt’s lawyers did. They probably asked Freeze if there was anything in his phone records that should worry them & Freeze didn’t 'fess up. It’s a mistake to hide things from one’s own lawyer.

I agree that it would seem logical to lawyer up with outside counsel when Nutt’s lawyer started sending them nasty-grams about a suit.

But it seems very likely that even if they did hire outside counsel, that firm did little legal work before suit was filed. It may have been nothing more than a letter confirming the hire with the client and a separate letter to Nutt’s lawyer telling him not to contact defense counsel’s clients directly in the future about the matter. Defense counsel could have called up his clients to generally discuss the case, and maybe even some of the phone calls/meetings Nutt was complaining about, but it’s unlikely you would review the phone records in detail at that stage.

It seems incredibly unlikely that Ole Miss would let Freeze go to media days if they had an inkling about the problem, or were concerned enough that there might be a problem to conduct a deeper records dive . Even more telling is the fact that three days before Freeze resigned the AD apparently was telling a reporter what a fine fellow Freeze was. That doesn’t gibe with a past decision by the athletic department to take a deeper dive into the phone records.

My guess is that the discovery of the other escort service calls was a surprise result of a routine review. The records produced in the FOI were for a very limited period of time, and had been redacted Defense counsel would want to know about all relevant calls at any time. A junior associate, paralegal or maybe even an outside contractor would have been tasked by the firm to review the un-redacted phone records for a much longer period of time to determine if there were additional calls to other numbers of interest. At some point some one noticed the same “misdialed number” , or something close to it, all over the un-redacted records. The more they looked, the worse it got. The Athletic department probably never had a clue until they got the bad news from their lawyers.

Since Freeze copped to the whole thing and quit, they did not have to really do some hard looking and figure out whether he misused a university issued credit card (feeding the hooker dinner on the school’s dime for instance). If Freeze decides to fight for some buy-out money after he sits at home and stews in it for a while, Ole Miss would probably dredge that stuff up, or perhaps it might come out if the Freeze’s end up in a really ugly divorce proceeding.

Oh I think the University was surprised about the calls. I don’t doubt that one bit. I also agree its lawyers would have had no reason to scour his phone records for suspicious activity. I merely disagree that they waited on the lawsuit before they got lawyers involved. It was once they got the letter telling them about the escort service call they started to pore over them.

I’m a little surprised Mars & his team sent OM the letter about what they’d found out about the call. They could have waited until they got all his records in discovery & found out everything in them. There’s a good chance no one at OM would have been prepared for that. There’s also a chance Freeze would have lied about it under oath if he didn’t know just how deeply they’d dug into his calls. They could have really caught him with his pants down. OTOH, the result they got is pretty significant. It might very well be that Mars anticipated this result & decided it’d be better strategy to reveal what he found. If the idea was to disrupt the OM football season (although I doubt that was the motivation), they picked a pretty good time to do it.