Oct. 14, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Attorneys have withdrawn their motion to dismiss a lawsuit requesting a judge to rule that information coaches give NCAA investigators cannot be considered defamatory.

The American Football Coaches Association and the NCAA filed a lawsuit in March against a former Alabama recruit and Tennessee player and his mother after they threatened to sue Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer over statements he made to NCAA investigators about them.

Attorneys for Kenny Smith and Vicki Smith Dagnan on Thursday filed a notice with the Knox County Chancery Court to withdraw their motion to dismiss the lawsuit, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. A hearing on the motion to dismiss had been scheduled for Friday.

"We have decided we are going to go forward with the case and we are going to file an answer to the lawsuit," Memphis attorney Philip Shanks said.

"I'm not in the least surprised," Fulmer's attorney, Jeff Hagood, said about withdrawing the motion.

According to NCAA documents leaked from a federal criminal case involving a former Alabama booster, Fulmer told an NCAA investigator in 2000 that there were rumors Kenny Smith's mother was involved with an Alabama assistant coach.

The Smiths filed a defamation lawsuit against Fulmer in an Alabama court, which was dismissed this summer for lack of jurisdiction.

The coaches' lawsuit was filed in Knoxville, and Fulmer was later added as a plaintiff.

The Smiths' attorneys filed a notice earlier this month that they want to take Fulmer's deposition on Nov. 10, a bye week for the Volunteers.

But Shanks wrote to Fulmer's attorneys that the date could be changed if necessary.

The NCAA contends threats of litigation would make coaches reluctant to provide information in investigations.

The Smiths do not believe coaches should be given special legal protection.

The Associated Press News Service

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