Alabama booster seeks new trial in NCAA suit

Published 12:51 pm Monday, March 2, 2009

BIRMINGHAM — An Alabama football fan who won $5 million in a slander lawsuit against the NCAA has given up on collecting the money and will instead push for a new trial where he could win even more, his attorney said Monday.

Don Word, a lawyer for Ray Keller, said the north Alabama timber dealer hopes for a second trial before a circuit judge in Jackson County, where he won the big verdict in 2007 only to have Judge William Gordon throw it out later.

Based on the possibility of a retrial, Keller asked the Alabama Supreme Court to dismiss his appeal of Gordon’s ruling. The justices agreed in a brief decision issued Feb. 24.

“We believe Judge Gordon’s order provides for a new jury trial, and we’ll be asking for that,” said Word.

Keller said a second trial could result in an even larger verdict for Keller, who originally sought $33.5 million from the NCAA. It could, of course, also end in victory for the NCAA.

A spokesman for the NCAA did not immediately return an e-mail message seeking comment.

Keller argued that the sanctioning organization slandered and libeled him when it announced penalties against the Crimson Tide seven years ago by referring to him and other then-boosters as “parasites,” ”pariahs” and “rogue boosters.”

The NCAA said it never publicly identified Keller, and it portrayed him as a rabid fan.

Jurors in Keller’s hometown of Scottsboro sided with him, but Gordon dismissed the judgment. The NCAA case against Alabama is still a sore spot for ‘Bama fans, and the judge said the verdict resulted from “passion or prejudice.”

Gordon presided over the conclusion of the three-week trial after the original judge, John Graham, suffered a heart attack. Graham recovered, and Dodd said he should preside in any retrial.