A circuit judge in Alabama has dismissed without prejudice a defamation suit brought by a former student-athlete against University of Tennessee football coach Phil Fulmer and others.
Rather, the court held that plaintiff Kenny Smith, an Alabama resident, should have filed his claim in Tennessee, where the alleged comments took place.
Smith sued Fulmer, the NCAA, NCAA Investigator Rich Johanningmeier, NCAA President Myles Brand, the American Football Coaches Association and recruiting analyst Tom Culpepper and Fulmer told Johanningmeier in 2000 that he believed that Smith’s mother was having an affair with an Alabama assistant coach. The interview became public in January after a criminal investigation was launched against Alabama booster Logan Young.
The judge wrote that “it is clear there is a ‘more appropriate forum’ based on the pending action in Knox County, Tennessee (the home of the plaintiffs, the place where the allegedly defamatory statements were made and the place confidential information was allegedly disclosed).”
In a statement, Fulmer said: “‘It is a good day for the coaching profession and the NCAA system of self-governance. I have been confident all along that we did what was right, the system would work, and it has. As this lawsuit went along, it became apparent that the controversial attorneys pressing the suit had as their goal the erosion of the entire NCAA process. One of the attorneys even admitted that as their goal last week.”
Fulmer was represented by Jeff Hagood, a Knoxville-based attorney, and Jeff Friedman, whose Birmingham-based Friedman, Leak & Bloom law firm. Smith’s attorney, Tommy Gallion, said he plans on helping Smith file a claim in Tennessee.