- 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. - A media event became a media circus Thursday morning.
Granted, there's a fine line between the two. But you only had to observe the Tennessee and Alabama media scurrying around the Wynfrey Hotel mid-morning to know the line had been crossed.
My introduction to the media frenzy began as I exited Georgia coach Mark Richt's interview session. Another sportswriter informed me that Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer had been subpoenaed.
Fulmer subpoenaed at SEC football media days? Isn't that story a bit stale?
In 2004, Fulmer was threatened with a subpoena in regard to his testimony to NCAA investigators about Alabama's creative football recruiting. Heeding the advice of his attorney, Fulmer didn't attend the SEC football media days and was fined $10,000 by the conference office.
He got off easy compared to Alabama, which was hit with a five-year NCAA probation sentence, including a two-year bowl ban.
Alabama's probation sentence has ended. But the legal process seemingly grinds on forever, as evidenced by the latest suit spawned by Alabama collision with the NCAA.
This one is brought to you compliments of Blankenship, Harrelson & Wollitz - a Birmingham law firm dedicated to restoring the reputation and financial well being of used-car dealer Wendell Smith.
Oops. Sorry about the used-car reference, guys. Chris Linton, a clerk with the law firm representing Smith, said their client actually was a wholesale dealer of imported cars.
In NCAA circles, Smith was better known as "a rogue booster," a characterization that stems, in part, from Fulmer's NCAA testimony, according to Smith's attorneys. That seemingly explains their motive for subpoenaing Fulmer "to find out what he knows" in hopes of beating the NCAA in court.
After hearing from both sides by early afternoon, I struggled to decide which made less sense: the law firm's explanation for how and when it served the subpoena or Fulmer's response to questions about the subpoena.
Paraphrasing Fulmer's take: "Subpoena? What subpoena?"
While Fulmer denied any knowledge of the subpoena during the interview sessions, Smith's attorneys described the process in such exquisite detail, I felt as though I were watching it in slow motion.
Fulmer arrived at the Wynfrey Hotel. His car door opened. Attorney Greg Case (an attorney named Case: How good is that?) dropped the subpoena in Fulmer's lap as he extended his legs from the car. As Case walked away, Fulmer picked up the subpoena.
Later in the day, Fulmer acknowledged in a press release that he received a subpoena. He just didn't know what it was at the time. When he exited the car, a stranger threw a piece of paper at him. He picked it up, handed it to UT publicist Bud Ford without looking at it and went on with his day.
Subpoena? What subpoena?
You can't blame Fulmer for trying to avoid the issue at media days. But if he had handled it differently, his credibility wouldn't be in question.
You can blame the attorneys.
Never mind their denials. Their timing couldn't have been more obvious if they had announced it on the hotel marquee.
Linton said his firm had hoped to subpoena Fulmer without any media scrutiny the night before. Its representatives showed up at the hotel and waited outside Shula's Steakhouse in case Fulmer showed up for dinner, he said.
"We were just hoping basically and thinking, 'Shula's is pretty popular with the coaches; if he comes and stays at the hotel, there's a real good chance he will go down (to the restaurant),' " Linton said.
It wouldn't have taken much research to determine that coaches and players often don't stay overnight at media days. Or you could have called the UT Sports Information Office, identified yourself as a Vol fan, and asked when the representatives of your beloved team would arrive in Birmingham. The itinerary wasn't exactly top-secret.
Of course, then you wouldn't have gotten all the media attention.
The media got used. So did the SEC.
But there wasn't much they could do about it.
"Several years ago, we thought it might happen," said Charles Bloom, the SEC's associate commissioner for media. "We were trying to plan on how to deal with it.
"What we came away with is it's a free country, and the judicial process has its points. We couldn't do anything to stop it if it's in a public place."
However, winning the day in the media is nothing like winning in court. My advice to Smith and his dream team: Don't spend the NCAA's money just yet.
The NCAA's investigation of Alabama has fostered three other lawsuits. And not one of the plaintiffs has cashed an NCAA check.
Chasing ambulances is more promising. So is selling cars.
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com.