Coach skipped media day

Updated: September 10, 2004, 12:16 PM ET
Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee is appealing the $10,000 fine the Southeastern Conference imposed after coach Phillip Fulmer did not attend SEC media days.

Fulmer was advised by his attorneys to not go to Birmingham, Ala., in July for the annual news conferences to avoid the possibility of being subpoenaed by attorneys who allege Fulmer conspired with the NCAA to bring down the Alabama football program.

"To deny this appeal would diminish a coach's and an institution's obligation to report potential rules violations and contradicts the intent of the conference's goal of eradicating rules violations in the Southeastern Conference," University of Tennessee President John Petersen wrote the SEC in a letter dated Aug. 19 and obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday.

Fulmer spoke to NCAA investigators looking into possible recruiting violations four years ago. In 2002, the NCAA placed Alabama on probation for five years.

"Unfortunately, these actions drew him into the aforementioned lawsuits and thus, precluded his attendance at media days in Alabama," Petersen wrote.

A former Alabama recruit and Tennessee player sued Fulmer for defamation in an Alabama court because Fulmer told the NCAA he heard rumors the recruit's mother was involved with an Alabama assistant. A judge dismissed the lawsuit three days after Fulmer was to appear at SEC media days, citing a lack of jurisdiction.

The next step in the appeals process is a hearing with the SEC executive committee, which includes university presidents or athletic officials from Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi, LSU and Auburn.

The committee will next meet Oct. 11 by conference call, SEC officials said.

The rule that fines universities for not showing up at media days was adopted by the SEC in June.

Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said he didn't know if the appeal would succeed.

"I certainly feel our case is valid, but I also know it's the first appeal of a new bylaw, and so I can't answer how they'll view that," he said. "Our appeal is based upon the fact that we have made a case in the Southeastern Conference that compliance matters."

Tennessee players Michael Munoz and Kevin Burnett attended media days. Fulmer stayed in Knoxville and spoke to reporters by conference call.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press