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Law

Federal Judge Dismisses $40M Lawsuit Against Ole Miss Football Coach Lane Kiffin

  • Rebels football player DeSanto Rollins alleged abusive behavior by the head coach.
  • A judge cited lack of evidence of alleged discrimination.
Ole Miss Lane Kiffin
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

A federal judge dismissed a $40 million lawsuit from Ole Miss football player DeSanto Rollins that listed head football coach Lane Kiffin and the school as defendants. 

In his Wednesday decision, U.S. District Court Judge Michael P. Mills laid out the reasons for the dismissal via summary judgment, including that he found Rollins unable to clear sovereign immunity exceptions or prove that his alleged mistreatment by Kiffin was “motivated by gender or racially-based” discrimination. 

“Although Kiffin’s conduct in the meetings was certainly offensive and imprudent, it is more akin to immature insults and indignities than to behavior going ‘beyond all possible bounds of decency,’ ” Mills wrote. 

Carroll Rhodes, Rollins’s attorney, told Front Office Sports that the decision will be appealed. “This is not the end of the story,” Rhodes said. Ole Miss and the attorneys representing Kiffin and the school did not immediately return messages.

A contentious March 2023 meeting between Kiffin and Rollins was the centerpiece of the lawsuit. The defensive tackle was asked to meet with Kiffin, but that meeting did not occur for nearly three weeks “because [Rollins] was not in a good place,” according to the lawsuit. Rollins was suffering from depression due to injuries and the death of his grandmother, the complaint stated. 

That March 21 meeting became heated, according to a transcript that was included in the lawsuit and, later, by audio obtained by FOS. 

“In the real f—ing world, you show up to work. Then you say, ‘Hey, I have mental issues. I can’t do anything for two weeks,’ ” Kiffin told Rollins at the meeting. “What f—ing world do you live in?”

Ole Miss and Kiffin filed a motion to dismiss the case in November. 

“[Rollins] has not alleged Kiffin treated him differently than other similarly situated individuals, much less that he did so with discriminatory intent because of [his] race or sex,” attorneys Paul B. Watkins, Jr. and Walter G. Watkins, Jr. wrote in a brief in support of the motion to dismiss

Beyond that, the defense team argued that Rollins was legally unable to pursue the American Disability Act or negligence claims in federal court since all the allegations occurred in Mississippi, making a Mississippi court the only venue for such claims. Mills agreed.

“Both the University and Kiffin in his official capacity enjoy sovereign immunity, which they have not waived,” Mills wrote. “Thus, this Court will only have jurisdiction if Congress has validly abrogated the defendant’s immunity.”

Rollins alleged that he was thrown off the team, although he remains on the roster. Ole Miss argued that Rollins was eligible to return after a medical evaluation. 

“Rollins has offered no evidence that he was medically cleared to return or that he made any effort whatsoever to resume team activities after the March 21 meeting,” Mills wrote. “Consequently, the evidence shows that it was up to Rollins when or if he resumed team activities—the decision was entirely his own.”

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