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Fulmer says he won't be distracted by subpoena

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer speaks to the media at the SEC football media days in Hoover, Ala. on Thursday, July 24, 2008. Fulmer was given a subpoena in the Wendell Smith case when he arrived at the Wynfrey hotel.
Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer speaks to the media at the SEC football media days in Hoover, Ala. on Thursday, July 24, 2008. Fulmer was given a subpoena in the Wendell Smith case when he arrived at the Wynfrey hotel. AP

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. | Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer says a subpoena for his testimony in a lawsuit stemming from a decade-old Alabama recruiting scandal is aimed at distracting him from the upcoming season.

Fulmer was at the Southeastern Conference's football media days in Birmingham, Ala., on Thursday when he got the subpoena to provide testimony for former Crimson Tide booster Wendell Smith's lawsuit against the NCAA.

"The last time this happened we won the division with two freshman quarterbacks," he said in a statement, referencing the 2004 season when the Vols went 10-3 and won the SEC East. "We won't be distracted."

Fulmer chose not to attend the SEC's media days in 2004 after attorneys for another booster who had filed a similar lawsuit against the NCAA threatened to serve him with a subpoena.

His attorney, Jeff Hagood, wouldn't specify how he would handle the subpoena, other than to say on Friday "you can rest assured we'll deal with it appropriately."

Neither Smith's Birmingham, Ala., attorney, Brandon Blankenship, nor the NCAA returned messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Smith sued the NCAA in 2003, alleging defamation and invasion of privacy that hurt his reputation and his career.

The NCAA placed Alabama on probation in February 2001 for recruiting violations, including allegations that Smith, a Chattanooga businessman, provided $20,000, lodging and entertainment as an inducement to prospect Kenny Smith. The Smiths are not related.

Fulmer and some of his staff spoke with an NCAA investigator in 2000 about various Alabama recruits and the belief that some boosters were buying top recruits.

His interviews were supposed to remain secret but became exposed when the NCAA handed over documents in a court case against Crimson Tide another booster, Logan Young.

"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," Fulmer said.

Fulmer was ordered to appear to give a deposition on Sept. 25 in Birmingham. The date is two days before Tennessee plays at Auburn; Blankenship said Thursday they picked it because they knew Fulmer would be in Alabama.

Blankenship said a colleague staked out the media days hotel to serve the subpoena.

"Because they can't win legally they are trying to play the game in the press," Fulmer said. "I am more than a little P.O.'d about any part of that."

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