Fulmer declines to attend SEC media days, draws fine
July 26, 2004
By Dennis Dodd
SportsLine.com Senior Writer
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Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer was fined by the SEC on Monday after refusing to attend the conference's preseason football media days because of what he called a "legal circus."
Fulmer has been blamed by Alabama fans for providing information to the NCAA that put the Crimson Tide on probation two years ago. In response to that, lawyer Tommy Gallion has sued both Fulmer and the NCAA. Gallion represents two former Alabama assistants and has been highly critical of Fulmer.
"The University of Tennessee and head football coach Phillip Fulmer continue to be attacked by a small number of individuals about matters unrelated to on-field competition," Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said in a statement. "Coach Fulmer has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed in Alabama by the same attorneys who have filed a suit against the NCAA. Coach Fulmer's attorneys have advised him not to attend SEC media days in Birmingham."
The conference announced it had fined Fulmer $10,000. He will be available to reporters during his scheduled time Thursday by teleconference. Two Tennessee players scheduled to accompany Fulmer will be at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., in person.
"I am not attending media days because of the legal circus that has been created by an isolated group of attorneys," Fulmer said in a statement. "They want to hijack media days for their own benefit but I am not going to allow that to happen. 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.
"When you get behind all the smoke and the big pile of lawsuits, the truth still stands: rules were broken, an investigation proved it, those who broke the rules admitted their guilt, and a university paid the price. There are a few people who cannot accept the truth, so they file lawsuits hoping the truth will go away.
"As one of several coaches contacted by the NCAA regarding these serious violations by a small group of boosters, my response was honest, in line with our code of conduct, and the right thing to do."
Fulmer added he is "very upset." Hamilton and Tennessee president John Peterson said they support the coach. Fulmer is scheduled to appear before a record number of media for the event, more than 700 reporters.
On Friday, Tennessee had asked the SEC to address security concerns regarding Fulmer's appearance in hotel that is about 65 miles from Alabama's campus. Fans are allowed to roam freely in some parts of the hotel rubbing elbows with and getting autographs from coaches.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive has set a goal of getting every conference school off probation by 2007. The conference also has established a protocol for reporting cheating by conference members