- Dave Hooker and Mike Strange interview Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer on the News Sentinel's radio show, The Sports Page
- Dave Hooker and Mike Strange interview Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers on the News Sentinel's radio show, The Sports Page
- Dave Hooker interviews Tennessee running back Arian Foster on the News Sentinel's radio show, The Sports Page
- Dave Hooker interviews Georgia coach Mark Richt about preseason expectations, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow
- Dave Hooker interviews Georgia receiver Mohamed Massaquoi about media days and quarterback Matthew Stafford
- **Editor's Note - All UT interviews were performed before news broke of a subpoena that was reportedly served to coach Phillip Fulmer**
HOOVER, Ala. — After denying receipt of a subpoena Thursday morning at Southeastern Conference Media Days, Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer said later in the day that he in fact did receive an order to appear in an Alabama court for deposition in a disassociated Alabama booster's lawsuit against the NCAA.
In comments from an event Thursday night in Nashville released by the university, Fulmer defended his denials and lashed out at attorneys for overshadowing the SEC's three-day football media event.
"I wasn't expecting a subpoena, but maybe every time I go to Birmingham I probably will be expecting a subpoena," Fulmer said. "The issue is it's 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."
Thursday's circus was exactly what Fulmer tried to avoid in 2004, when he incurred a $10,000 fine from the SEC for skipping the event to avoid being subpoenaed.
At that time, Fulmer's attorney and university attorneys advised him to remain in Knoxville to avoid a subpoena related to a separate lawsuit brought by former Alabama assistant coach Ronnie Cottrell.
This time Birmingham attorneys representing Chattanooga car dealer Wendell Smith, who is seeking Fulmer's testimony in a defamation suit against the NCAA, managed to catch the Tennessee coach off guard.
Word of the subpoena, as well as a few photocopies of the document, began circulating around the lobby of Wynfrey Hotel shortly after Fulmer and UT's contingent arrived Thursday morning.
After the Jackson County Circuit Court clerk's office confirmed the authenticity of the subpoena Thursday morning, Chris Linton, a clerk for the Birmingham law firm representing Smith, told the News Sentinel a process server gave Fulmer a subpoena as he exited his car to enter the hotel.
Greg Case, whose signature appears on the document, told radio host Paul Finebaum he approached Fulmer's car in front of the hotel and placed the subpoena in Fulmer's lap as he was exiting the vehicle.
According to Case, Fulmer said he did not want the document, which fell to the ground. Case said he witnessed Fulmer pick up the piece of paper.
During a brief session with Tennessee media before his scheduled appearance before some 800 media members Thursday morning, Fulmer said he did not recall being approached by anyone at his vehicle.
'"I didn't see anybody particularly that wasn't a fan or wanting an autograph or whatever like that, that I recognized," Fulmer said. "When you walk in the door, there's a lot of things that all of a sudden happen."
Fulmer's attorney, Jeff Hagood, and UT associate athletic director for media relations, Bud Ford, both told the News Sentinel that an unfamiliar man gave Fulmer a piece of paper as he exited an SUV in front of the hotel.
According to Hagood, Fulmer retrieved the paper and handed it to Ford without reading it. Ford said he placed the document in his briefcase, along with other papers Fulmer was carrying, without reading it.
Fulmer offered a similar account during the Davidson County All-Sports Picnic later Thursday, according to a statement released by UT.
"Phillip was getting out of his car and focused on other things, as you might imagine, getting ready to face an audience of about 800 people or so," Hagood said. "Someone basically threw something at him. They didn't look official, as far as he was concerned. It didn't look like a law enforcement person or that ilk. He didn't pay attention to what it was."
Hagood and Ford both said that Fulmer became aware of the subpoena only after he and the rest of UT's traveling party left the hotel to fly to Nashville.
"If Phillip had a subpoena and he knew he had it, he would never lie about it," Hagood said. "This was an ambush."
When asked about the subpoena during several interview sessions Thursday, an irritated Fulmer denied having seen it.
"There are great fans that have great passion about the Southeastern Conference that are not interested in that kind of BS," Fulmer said in his final press conference of the day with newspaper and Internet reporters. "And I would have some other choice words if there weren't so many cameras in here."
Fulmer, who said in UT's statement he "wasn't trying to mislead anybody," went on to express anger in his comments in Nashville on Thursday evening.
"Because they can't win legally they are trying to play the game in the press," Fulmer said, according to UT's statement. "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."
The subpoena, which was issued Wednesday in Jackson County (Ala.) Circuit Court, calls for Fulmer to be deposed Sept. 25 in Birmingham, two days before the Vols play at Auburn.
That date would likely be reset if Fulmer could show the timing is unreasonable.
If a judge grants a motion to quash the subpoena, Fulmer would not have to appear for the deposition.
The subpoena relates to a 2003 lawsuit Smith filed against the NCAA, claiming the organization and members of its infractions committee defamed him, invaded his privacy and intentionally inflicted emotional distress. The NCAA accused Smith of providing recruit Kenny Smith (no relation) $20,000 to sign with Alabama in the mid-1990's. Wendell Smith has questioned Fulmer's role as a source in the NCAA's investigation.
Kenny Smith signed with Alabama, but was not academically eligible. He later attended Tennessee on a football scholarship and lettered in 1997, although he saw little playing time.
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.