SEC intrigue: Fulmer and the subpoena
HOOVER – 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, Tenn., 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 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.”
He deflected a further question about the subpoena, saying, “I’m not going to talk about it.”
A judge may have to decide whether Fulmer actually received the subpoena.
“I’m confident the evidence will prove he was served,” said Blankenship.
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. The date is two days before Tennessee plays at Auburn; Blankenship said they picked it because they knew Fulmer would be in Alabama.
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.
Tennessee appealed after Fulmer was fined $10,000 for failing to show up in 2004, but the league denied the challenge.
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.