Fulmer to skip trip to Alabama

Fulmer to skip trip to Alabama

UT head football coach Phillip Fulmer UT head football coach Phillip Fulmer

July 26, 2004

6 Sports Director

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- An on-going dispute in Alabama has Tennessee's head football coach backing out of a scheduled trip to Birmingham this week.

Phillip Fulmer was supposed to be in Birmingham Thursday to meet with the media about this year's Tennessee football team. But 6 Sports has learned concerns that he could be served a subpoena to testify in a lawsuit against the NCAA have prompted UT to cancel that visit.

Fulmer will instead participate in the SEC Football Media Days event via satellite from Knoxville. Tennessee's player representatives, Kevin Burnett and Michael Munoz, will appear at the event as scheduled.

SEC officials responded right away, pointing to a league rule and saying Fulmer will be fined $10,000 if he doesn't show up in Birmingham.

At a press briefing Monday evening, UT Athletics Director Mike Hamilton defended Fulmer's decision.

"It comes back to doing what's right for the institution, doing what's right within the NCAA rules," Hamilton said. "And when you have that for your basis for decision making, I don't think it makes it very tough to make the decisions. We felt very strongly that this was the right thing, that Philip did the right thing to begin with, and so it made the decision much easier."

Hamilton told 6 Sports he knows there will a perception be some that Fulmer has something to hide, but he doesn't deal in perceptions.  "You've got to deal in realities. I know perception is part of the world we live in but again, you have to go back to doing the right thing. And feel like this is the right thing. People are going to make their judgements on this. We had to make our judgment based on what we think is right for the institution and for our head football coach, and ultimately for the NCAA."

Hamilton says he spoke with the SEC about making certain Fulmer was safe while attending. The SEC assured the annual event is safe.

An Alabama attorney involved in the lawsuits said Monday night he's told the SEC he won't interfere with Fulmer if the head coach changes his mind to attend. There has been no indication Fulmer would change his mind.

Fulmer has been to eleven of the preseason media events as head coach.

Fulmer did not speak on camera, but through a university press release called the situation a "legal circus" created by "an isolated group of attorneys."

"They want to hijack Media Days for their own benefit but I am not going to allow that to happen," Fulmer said. "This day is for the players. They should be center stage instead of this small group
of lawyers who intend on attacking the integrity of the NCAA's enforcement process."

Fulmer insisted giving the NCAA information about recruiting violations at Alabama was "the right thing to do."

Fulmer has been criticized for giving the NCAA information about Alabama recruiting four years ago.

The Crimson Tide was put on probation in 2002. Former Alabama assistant coach Ronnie Cottrell is suing the NCAA. His attorneys allege Fulmer was part of a conspiracy with the NCAA to bring down the Alabama football program.

Fulmer has also been sued by a former player over what he said to an investigator.

Portions of this report contributed by The Associated Press, copyright 2004. All rights reserved.


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