Breaking news already this morning from SEC Media Days involving Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, but not for the reasons you might think. Coach Fulmer has reportedly been served a subpoena to appear in court to testify in the ongoing libel suit filed against the NCAA by an Alabama booster.
Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer was handed a subpoena upon arriving at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover for SEC Kickoff 2008 this morning.
The subpoena, delivered by a process server representing a Birmingham law firm, requires Fulmer to appear for a Sept. 25 deposition in a libel and defamation suit against the NCAA brought by disassociated University of Alabama booster Wendell Smith.
Smith was charged by the NCAA in 2002 with paying $10,000 to blue-chip recruit Kenny Smith.
Discuss Fulmer just got served.
[update 11:47am]: A better article by Ron Higgins of the Commercial Appeal.
[update 12:44pm]: The story continues…Fulmer is apparently denying the receipt of a subpoena despite multiple sources claiming to have a copy of it. From the USA Today just minutes ago:
HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer denied reports Thursday that he was served with a subpoena to testify in an Alabama court case while appearing at the annual Southeastern Conference football media days.
The Tuscaloosa News reported that Fulmer was served with the document inside the hotel where the event was held, but the coach later disputed the report.
“I don’t know anything about a subpoena,” Fulmer told a small group of reporters.
From Chris Low at ESPN, published at 12:14pm:
“A couple of guys have asked me about that, and I haven’t seen anything like that,” said Fulmer, who has yet to officially address the media this morning. “We spent … what was it three or four years ago … putting up with all that B.S. that had nothing to do with football and the Southeastern Conference. Darned if I’m going to start it again if I don’t have to, so somebody’s just screwing around.”
[Update 1:06pm]: This is turning into a real circus. Lawyer Chris Linton is claiming that Fulmer was, in fact, served and claims to have it on video tape.
Not true, said lawyer Chris Linton of the Blankenship, Harrelson & Wollitz firm that served the subpoena Thursday morning. He said the subpoena was served while Fulmer was in an SUV outside of the Wynfrey Hotel, cite of SEC Media Days. He said the act is on video tape.
[Update 1:45pm]: Things have died down somewhat so there’s not much new to report at this point. However, the subpoena itself has been confirmed as legit. A clerk in Jackson County has confirmed that the subpoena was issued on Wednesday, but the question remains as to whether or not Fulmer was actually served.
Also, The Birmingham News now has a bit more detailed statement from the attorney who reportedly served Fulmer:
According to Linton, Fulmer, accompanied by at least two University of Tennessee athletics department officials, arrived at the Wynfrey Hotel in an SUV. When Fulmer’s door opened, the processor stepped forward and handed the subpoena to the coach.
“He said, `I don’t want it,’ ” said Linton, who confirmed he witnessed the document placed in Fulmer’s lap, then moved to a stack of other papers by the coach.
[Update 2:15pm]: A newly published blog article by Chris Low includes a Fulmer quote that I had not previously seen from any other source:
After a brief pause, Fulmer huffed, “I would have some other choice words if there weren’t so many cameras on me.”
[Update 2:25pm]: Uh oh, someone is changing their story. It appears the details given by the Birmingham law firm ’employee’ are changing.
It now turns out that Chris Linton is not an attorney (as was earlier reported), but a clerk for the Birmingham law firm coming after Fulmer.
While he claimed to The Tuscaloosa News that he handed over the papers to Fulmer personally, he now says that a process server gave the document to Fulmer.
If the two parties continue to disagree, according to this AP article, a judge could determine whether or not Fulmer was actually served.
[Update 3:15pm]: Jimmy Hyams reported on SportsTalk that Tennessee officials were with Coach Fulmer throughout the day and are confirming his story. Bud Ford, Tennessee’s Sports Information Director, claims to have been with Coach Fulmer all morning during the time that the subpoena was allegedly served and did not see anything.
[Update 6:45pm]: I have to admit, I’m a bit disappointed to hear that Fulmer “found the subpoena” as many suspected would happen.
[Update 8:35pm]: Official UT release- statement from Phil Fulmer:
“I do have to be a little bit careful – a lot more than I’d like to be.
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 Bud Ford to put in his briefcase and forgot about it. I got a bunch of questions (from the media) about a subpoena that I hadn’t seen.
I wasn’t expecting a subpoena but maybe every time I go to Birmingham I probably will be expecting a subpoena. As it turns out its some sort of subpoena to do something, and I will let the attorneys all handle that. The issue is its all crap and they are trying to use the press trying to use a day that’s very special to the Southeastern conference for players and the coaches.
Because they can’t win legally they are trying to play the game in the press I am more than a little PO’d about any part of that. It’s sad that a few publicity hunting lawyers in one of our sister states want to keep open a chapter of history that has long since been closed and as far as I’m concerned will stay closed. Obviously this is an effort to distract our football team or distract me in some way. The last time this happened we won the division with two freshman quarterbacks. We won’t be distracted I had a good conversation with the commissioner about it.
About being in Birmingham, I wasn’t trying to mislead anybody. I hadn’t looked at anything.”