Ex-’Bama booster subpoenas Fulmer to testify in case?
Posted: Friday, July 25, 2008 8:59 pm
By: By JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer
HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Lawyers for a former Alabama football booster said they staked out the annual Southeastern Conference football media days Thursday and served Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer with a subpoena to testify about a lawsuit against the NCAA.
Fulmer repeatedly denied seeing a subpoena. But the scene was much like the one he tried to avoid four years ago when he refused to come to the event in suburban Birmingham and spoke only by phone, incurring a $10,000 fine from the league.
A process server hired by lawyers for Wendell Smith of Chattanooga approached Fulmer as he stepped out of an SUV outside the suburban hotel where SEC media days was held, said Brandon Blankenship, an attorney for Smith.
“He said, ‘Coach Fulmer, I’ve got something for you,’ and gave it to him,” said Blankenship, of Birmingham.
Fulmer initially denied it.
“I have not seen a subpoena,” he said. “This is not the place for that kind of thing. There are great fans that are very passionate about the Southeastern Conference that aren’t interested in that kind of B.S.”
“And I would have some other choice words if there weren’t so many cameras in here.”
In a statement later in the day, Fulmer acknowledged receiving “a piece of paper,” but said he didn’t realize what it was.
“I was getting out of the car and was tossed a piece of paper that I picked up, stuck it in with a whole bunch of things that I had been reading on my way in from the airport and handed it to (media relations official) Bud Ford to put in his briefcase and forgot about it,” the statement said.
He said he will let his lawyers handle the subpoena.
A judge may have to decide whether Fulmer actually received the subpoena.
Attorneys have been seeking Fulmer’s sworn statements in a lawsuit filed by Smith, a former Alabama booster, against the NCAA. A clerk in Jackson County confirmed to The Associated Press that the subpoena was issued Wednesday.
The clerk said Fulmer was ordered to appear to give a deposition on Sept. 25 in Birmingham.
Fulmer participated in SEC media days by telephone from Tennessee four years ago.
That move let him avoid coming to Alabama and possibly being forced to testify in another case involving an NCAA investigation of the Crimson Tide program.
Blankenship said Fulmer didn’t try to avoid the latest subpoena.
“He wasn’t dodging us because I don’t think he knew we were trying to serve him,” said Blankenship. “We had hoped we could get him last night before (Fulmer’s part in) media days began, but this was the best we could do.”
Smith is suing the NCAA for defamation, claiming the organization and several members of the infractions committee slandered him in accusing him of violating NCAA rules.
Alabama disassociated Smith as a booster after the sanctioning body accused him of providing money to a high school recruit. Smith denied the allegation and questioned Fulmer’s role as a source for the NCAA during its investigation of the Alabama football program.
Associated Press writer Beth Rucker in Knoxville contributed to this report