Lawsuit: Dan Mullen, Scott Stricklin motivated by ‘malice and hatred’ toward Ole Miss

New University of Florida coach Dan Mullen's inaugural signing class featured 19 players. (JOEY KNIGHT | Times)
New University of Florida coach Dan Mullen's inaugural signing class featured 19 players. (JOEY KNIGHT | Times)
Published February 21 2018
Updated February 21 2018

Fallout from the latest legal twist in one of the SEC's fiercest rivalries reached the Gators this week.

Florida football coach Dan Mullen and athletic director Scott Stricklin are defendants in a lawsuit filed Tuesday by Rebel Rags, the Oxford, Miss. clothing store connected to the NCAA's Ole Miss investigation.  The nine-page suit alleges that they were motivated by "malice and hatred" for Ole Miss and then-coach Hugh Freeze and aided acts of "libel, slander and defamation" when they were employed at rival Mississippi State.

Rebel Rags became embroiled in the scandal after two Mississippi State players – Leo Lewis and Kobe Jones – told the NCAA that Ole Miss helped them receive free gear from the shop when they were recruits.

The store's attorney, Charles M. Merkel Jr., alleged that the players made "deliberately false and malicious statements" during the NCAA investigation "with the intent to advance the agenda" of Mullen, Stricklin, the NCAA and investigator Mike Sheridan. The suit suggests that for Stricklin and Mullen, that agenda was to hurt their rival out of spite.

The Ole Miss-Mississippi State rivalry is one of the most intense in the conference. They're the only two Power Five programs in their football-crazed state that has no NFL team.

In addition to the two Gators employees, the NCAA, Sheridan and 11 other unnamed people are listed as defendants. The suit accuses them of acting "in a concerted effort to bring harm and damage to the reputation of others." By creating what it calls a false narrative, Rebel Rags' finances and reputation were damaged, according to the suit.

UF deferred comment to attorneys for Stricklin and Mullen.

"Simply put, the claims against Mr. Stricklin are wholly devoid of merit, and there is simply no good faith basis in either law or fact for Mr. Stricklin to have been made a party to such a case," Stricklin's attorney, Charles Winfield, said in a statement to the Clarion Ledger newspaper.

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