Ole Miss defensive tackle DeSanto Rollins‘ lawsuit against head coach Lane Kiffin and the university was dismissed Wednesday by Judge Michael P. Wills in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, according to court documents.
Rollins filed a lawsuit against Kiffin and Ole Miss last September for failure to provide equal protection, racial and sexual discrimination and multiple other allegations. He said he was kicked off the team for missing practices and meetings during a “mental health crisis.”
Rollins, who is still listed on the Ole Miss roster, alleged in his suit that Kiffin intentionally took adverse action against him “on account of race for requesting and taking a mental health break, but not taking adverse action against white student-athletes” for the same request. The suit alleged sexual discrimination on the basis that Ole Miss has not taken “adverse action against female student-athletes for requesting and taking a mental health break.”
The suit also claimed Rollins was moved from defensive line to the offensive line (on the scout team) because he refused to enter the transfer portal and that Kiffin “maliciously, deliberately, intentionally, and in blatant disregard for the rights and health of Rollins verbally assaulted him” during a meeting on Feb. 27, 2023.
Rollins, whose career has been marred by injuries, told ESPN on Wednesday he plans to appeal the decision. He was seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages.
Attorneys for Kiffin and Ole Miss filed for the case to be dismissed in November and cited that the coach and university were “immune” from some of Rollins’ claims and that his “remaining allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
In Wednesday’s ruling, Mills wrote that “the evidence shows that it was up to Rollins when or if he resumed team activities” and that “the decision was entirely his own.” He wrote that claims of Kiffin’s negligence “fails because [Rollins] made no showing of discriminatory intent” and that Rollins did not allege any constitutional right violations in his case.
Mills also ruled against Rollins’ claims that Kiffin intentionally inflicted emotional distress.
“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 in his ruling.
On March 21, 2023, Rollins legally recorded a meeting with Kiffin without the coach’s knowledge, and a copy of the transcript was included in the lawsuit. ESPN obtained a copy of the audio in September. In the audio, Kiffin can be heard saying, “You’re off the team. You’re done. See ya. Go. And guess what? We can kick you off the team. So go read your f—ing rights about mental health. We can kick you off the team for not showing up.”
That meeting came after Rollins’ mother, Connie Hollins, said she called the school’s athletic trainer, Pat Jernigan, in late February and told him Rollins was “suffering a mental health crisis.” She requested Jernigan get a counselor to speak with her son and monitor him.
According to the lawsuit, Jernigan scheduled a meeting for Rollins with Josie Nicholson, the school’s assistant athletic director for sport psychology. She encouraged him to take a step back and scheduled a follow-up session for March 7. When he returned for his next session, Nicholson told him Kiffin wanted to meet with him again, but Rollins said he wasn’t ready to see the head coach yet.
Rollins didn’t meet with Kiffin again until two weeks later on March 21, despite repeated requests from the football staff.
During the audio exchange, Rollins is heard saying, “I mean, you’re acting like my issues aren’t real.”
“I didn’t say they’re not real,” Kiffin said. “You show up when your head — when your boss wants to meet with you. It wouldn’t have been like this if you would’ve come here when you kept getting messages the head coach wants to talk to you, you say, ‘I’m not ready to talk to him.'”