Former Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil is now a member of the Miami Dolphins, but a lawsuit against the first-round pick could directly affect the future success of the Rebels football program.
Tunsil’s wild draft night, during which some of his social media accounts were allegedly hacked — including the release of a video moments before the NFL draft of him smoking from a gas mask — has been well documented. But a lawsuit waged against Tunsil by his stepfather Lindsey Miller could implicate Ole Miss of violating NCAA rules.
The lawsuit stems from an altercation between Tunsil and Miller that involved Tunsil’s mother. Tunsil alleges that he was defending his mother from an attack by Miller, but Miller disputes that claim. Instead, Miller says, Tunsil started the fight after an argument about Tunsil accepting gifts from potential agents while still at Ole Miss.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has reportedly tried to avoid being deposed in the case, but he may be forced to testify as it relates to Miller’s claim of defamation of character because of a quote from Freeze that appeared in an ESPN report.
“The incident . . . involves Laremy defending his mother against his stepfather” and “ . . . I am proud of him for standing up for his mother and protecting his family,” Freeze told ESPN.
Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann says those comments are the basis for Miller wanting Freeze to testify:
Freeze might enjoy more success arguing that questions posed during deposition be limited to the altercation between Tunsil and Miller. If Freeze is only posed questions about how he learned of the Tunsil-Miller altercation, those questions would not necessarily extend into a discussion of whether Tunsil accepted benefits in contravention of NCAA rules. On the other hand, if Freeze is asked about the underlying topic of Tunsil’s compliance with NCAA rules while at Ole Miss, the deposition might — depending on what Freeze would say — become problematic for the coach.
Tunsil admitted to accepting impermissible benefits while at Ole Miss on the night of the draft. Prior to being taken by the Dolphins, someone leaked text messages between Tunsil and Ole Miss assistant athletic director of football operations John Miller t0 Tunsil’s Instagram account. Tunsil asked Miller for money, which would be a violation of NCAA rules if money exchanged hands.
McCann said that Freeze’s potential testimony would almost certainly be released to the public, which means the coach’s statements would be fair game for the NCAA in its current review of the Ole Miss athletics program. The NCAA charged Ole Miss with 28 violations in January, including 13 related to the football team. Ole Miss had until May 21 to respond to the claims, and could face NCAA sanctions if the investigation concludes that there was wrongdoing.
As McCann wrote, this could all be a moot point in relation to Freeze’s potential testimony if Tunsil and Miller reached a settlement out of court:
The “x” factor in whether Freeze must testify is the defendant, Tunsil, whom the Miami Dolphins drafted #13 in the 2016 NFL Draft. At any point, Tunsil could reach a settlement with Miller where he pays Miller some amount of money. In exchange, Miller’s case would be dismissed and Freeze would not need to testify.
Tunsil is also considering a civil lawsuit of his own to recoup wages lost from the hack of his accounts, which led to Tunsil falling out of the top-10 overall picks in the draft.
Either way, the Laremy Tunsil-Ole Miss saga still has a few chapters left to write.