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Witt accused of fraud, misrepresentation

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Former Alabama football coach Mike Price
has sued university President Robert Witt over actions that led to
the coach's dismissal following a visit to a strip club.

The suit, filed Monday in state circuit court in Tuscaloosa,
accuses Witt of fraud and misrepresentation and asks for a jury to
decide on a monetary award, said Stephen Heninger, Price's
attorney.

Price, now the coach at Texas-El Paso, has sued Sports
Illustrated and writer Don Yaeger over an article that appeared in
the magazine. Price claimed he was libeled and slandered by a story
detailing his actions when he visited a strip club in Pensacola,
Fla., in April 2003.

"We filed this new suit against President Witt in his
individual capacity, not involving him as president but as a man
who interfered with Price's contract and held him in false light,"
Heninger said.

A judge last year dismissed an earlier lawsuit filed in federal
court by Price that alleged UA and Witt illegally fired Price. An
appeal of that dismissal is before the 11th Circuit Court of
Appeals.

Witt's attorney, Stan Starnes of Birmingham, released a
statement saying the new suit "has no merit."

Heninger said the latest suit stems from a deposition by Witt as
part of the lawsuit against Sports Illustrated as well as recent
comments indicating that Witt demanded the Athletics Committee of
the Board of Trustees either recommend Price be fired or begin
searching for a new president.

"The threat that he would resign if he would not be allowed to
fire Price is involved," Heninger said.

Among the documents listed in the suit are e-mails from Witt to
friends indicating that UA Director of Athletics Mal Moore did not
agree with Witt's decision to fire Price.

The lawsuit also includes images from a computer slide show that
Witt showed to trustees during a May 3, 2003, meeting to decide
Price's fate.

The slides, a parody of a MasterCard advertising campaign, show
images of a golfer, a bucket of golf balls and a bottle of bourbon,
with their respective costs, followed by the statement: "Failing
to give a tip for services. Then, having your business credit card
stolen after breakfast. By hookers. Who run up an enormous tab.
Priceless."

The lawsuit claims Witt had the slide show "created, assembled
and presented to intentionally and maliciously place (Price) in a
false light."

UA spokeswoman Janet Griffith said Tuesday that the images were
only "a compilation of existing material" circulating on the
Internet and were shown to trustees to demonstrate that damage to
the university's image was widespread.

Heninger said that when he asked the university for copies of
the "existing material," he was given only one page, which he
said was not used in the slide show.

Starnes said Price should take responsibility for his actions in
Pensacola and get on with his life.

"One would think that he would want to move on and focus on his
new head coaching job," Starnes said. "Instead, he has chosen to
pursue another lawsuit, which will result in nothing more than
continued attention for his embarrassing conduct last April."

Price was fired by Witt after the May 3 meeting with trustees,
just over five months into his tenure. He accepted the football
coaching job at Texas-El Paso in December.

Price's suit against Sports Illustrated is still in the
evidence-gathering phase, Heninger said, and no trial date is set.
Moore's deposition in the suit is set for April 13.