On June 22, 2018, news broke that construction was to begin on a new indoor volleyball facility at the University of Southern Mississippi. School Athletic Director Dan Gilbert praised the potential of the project, stating, “We could get more than 1,000 [people] if we put chairs on the floor, so it will be a really good venue for multiple events. I look at it as a facility that the community will use significantly.”
Gilbert also praised the university’s “creativeness” in raising funds for the construction of the $6 million facility. Officially, a partnership with the nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center was responsible for $5 million.
One particularly notable name on the list of private donors was former NFL quarterback Brett Favre. An alumnus of Southern Miss himself, the Wrangler-jean-wearing, gunslinging Favre played for 20 seasons in the National Football League, most notably for the Green Bay Packers.
Football fans love to reminisce on the long-lost days when teams were marshaled by quarterbacks like Favre – the “family man” and the “tough All-American boy from Mississippi,” and while not a remarkably cogent football analysis, these sentiments proved to be less reliable than Favre’s biggest fans could have ever imagined.
In May of 2022, the Mississippi Department of Human Resources filed a lawsuit against 38 defendants – Favre was among those listed. The lawsuit claimed that Favre had misused welfare funds to pay for numerous construction projects, the volleyball facility among those.
Favre’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in November, claiming that the state was using Favre as a way to deflect blame for their own misuse of public funds.
The filing read, “It is apparent that MDHS has sued Favre, a Mississippi and national celebrity, in an effort to deflect responsibility for its own egregious wrongdoing in allowing $94 million of its public funds to be misspent – funds for which MDHS itself admits it was ‘exclusively responsible.’”
Based on this, it seemed as though Favre’s attorney was claiming that the MDHS was solely responsible for the misuse, not Favre.
His attorney’s filing went on to say that “there is no factual or legal basis to include Favre in this lawsuit or for the torrent of the unjustified negative publicity concerning Favre that MDHS has outrageously instigated.”
While this initial lawsuit was dropped by the state, a new lawsuit was filed in December that claimed Favre owed over $5 million in misused funds. The state argued that Favre orchestrated the misuse to pay for the construction of the previously mentioned volleyball court at Southern Mississippi – coincidentally the same volleyball program his daughter played in.
Interestingly enough, text messages between Favre and the Mississippi Community Education Center founder Nancy New surfaced, in which Favre texted, “If you were to pay me, is there any way the media can find out where it came from and how much?” This was in relation to the public funds payments he would go on to receive for events that he reportedly did not attend. According to Favre’s contractual obligations, he needed to attend these events in order to get paid. Despite this, New would go on to text Favre back, saying that they didn’t make that information public and thus Favre had nothing to worry about.
Later on in 2022, New and her son would eventually plead guilty to 13 felony counts relating to the scandal as a whole.
While this case proves a bad look for Favre, he has maintained that he is not guilty of the allegations pinned against him. Favre has gone as far as filing against NFL talk shows that discussed the case such as the Pat McAfee show, those filings based on defamation.