Branded Merch Shop at Center of Ugly NCAA Legal Battle
A Mississippi-based retailer that specializes in Ole Miss-branded merchandise and apparel has filed a lawsuit against Dan Mullen and Scott Stricklin, head coach and athletic director, respectively, for the Florida Gators. The lawsuit refers to their former employment in the same positions at Mississippi State. This legal action is the latest to stem from the NCAA investigation into rule violations at Ole Miss involving Rebel Rags, the retailer in question.
The NCAA, armed with testimony from Mississippi State players Leo Lewis and Kobe Jones, accused Rebel Rags of supplying the players with $2,800 worth of free merchandise. It seems that before Lewis and Jones committed to play at Mississippi State, the two went on a recruiting trip to Ole Miss, where the alleged rule violation took place. Under NCAA policy, recruits are not to be provided with gifts or money from any party in order to influence their decision.
As part of the fallout from the allegations, Ole Miss was forced to distance itself from Terry Warren, owner of Rebel Rags, which meant that he lost his license to sell Ole Miss-branded goods. While the NCAA is notoriously powerful and far-reaching when it comes to litigation and protecting its policies, Warren decided not to sit back as his business was decimated by allegations.
He has since sued Lewis, Jones, Mullen and Stricklin for defamation, seeking damages for losses that resulted from the NCAA investigation. Rebel Rags has since been reinstated by Ole Miss while the university’s appeal is still pending. Ole Miss faces the possibility of an extra year of a bowl ban due to the NCAA’s findings.
Charlie Winfield, Stricklin’s attorney, commented on the nature of the lawsuit in a statement provided to GatorBait.net. "We have learned that Mr. Stricklin has been named, along with a number of others, as a party to a lawsuit filed by an Oxford, Mississippi business that appears to have been identified by the NCAA in connection with findings of major rules violations by the University of Mississippi football program,” he said. “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. We intend to vigorously oppose these claims."
Whether this is a case of a booster attempting to influence university recruitment or of a coordinated attempt by folks at Mississippi State to tarnish Ole Miss’ reputation is yet to be clear. It will certainly be interesting to see how the lawsuits against Mullen and Stricklin play out, as it could ostensibly pull Florida into this legal mess. Needless to say, things don’t look great for the SEC right now, and it all centers on Rebel Rags.