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Fulmer served with subpoena at SEC media day

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer has found the subpoena he was served Thursday at the Southeastern Conference Media Days.

Alabama attorneys representing disassociated Alabama booster Wendell Smith in a defamation suit against the NCAA want to question Fulmer under oath about his role in the investigation of Alabama, which ultimately landed the Crimson Tide on probation earlier this decade.

A process server hired by lawyers for Wendell Smith of Chattanooga, Tenn., approached Fulmer as he stepped out of an SUV outside the suburban hotel where SEC holds its media days, said Brandon Blankenship, an attorney for Smith.

"He said, 'Coach Fulmer, I've got something for you,' and gave it to him," said Blankenship, of Birmingham.

Fulmer, who initially denied several times to several different media members that he'd been served a subpoena, issued a statement Wednesday night. He insisted that he wasn't trying to mislead anybody.

"I do have to be a little bit careful -- a lot more than I'd like to be," Fulmer said in the statement.
"I was getting out of the car and was tossed a piece of paper that I picked up, stuck it in with a whole bunch of things that I had been reading on my way in from the airport and handed it to [associate athletic director for media relations] Bud Ford to put in his briefcase and forgot about it. I got a bunch of questions [from the media] about a subpoena that I hadn't seen.

"I wasn't expecting a subpoena but maybe every time I go to Birmingham I probably will be expecting a subpoena. As it turns out, it's some sort of subpoena to do something, and I will let the attorneys all handle that. The issue is [that] it's all crap and they are trying to use the press trying to use a day that's very special to the Southeastern Conference for players and the coaches."

Attorneys have been seeking Fulmer's sworn statements in a lawsuit filed by Smith, a former Alabama booster, against the NCAA.

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 they picked the date because they knew Fulmer would be in Alabama.

By participating in SEC media days by telephone from Tennessee four years ago, Fulmer avoided coming to Alabama and possibly being forced to testify in another case involving an NCAA investigation of the Crimson Tide.

Tennessee appealed after Fulmer was fined $10,000 for failing to show up in 2004, but the league denied the challenge.

Smith is suing the NCAA for defamation, claiming the organization and several members of the infractions committee slandered him in accusing him of violating NCAA rules.

Alabama disassociated Smith as a booster after the sanctioning body accused him of providing money to a high school recruit. Smith denied the allegation and questioned Fulmer's role as a source for the NCAA during its investigation of the Alabama football program.

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

"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. Obviously this is an effort to distract our football team or distract me in some way. The last time this happened, we won the division with two freshman quarterbacks. We won't be distracted. I had a good conversation with [SEC commissioner Mike Slive] about it.

"About being in Birmingham, I wasn't trying to mislead anybody. I hadn't looked at anything."

ESPN.com's Chris Low and The Associated Press contributed to the report.