Former Alabama Coach Down to One Defendant

Jun 5, 2004

First there was the University of Alabama, and then there was the university’s president. Now Mike Price, the former Tide football coach and current University of Texas-El Paso coach, is down to Sports Illustrated as the only named defendant in his ongoing legal blitz.
And SI and its attorneys are pulling out all stops in defending itself against his allegations that the magazine libeled him when it reported on his alleged sexual tryst with strippers shortly after taking the Alabama football job.
Last week, 15 news media organizations joined SI in seeking to protect the confidentiality of sources it used in writing the story, which almost certainly led to Price’s firing in May of 2003.
Specifically, the media asked a federal appeals court to reverse a district judge’s interpretation that Alabama’s shield law applies to newspapers, radio and television stations, but not magazines. Among other things, the brief suggested that the district court’s order “tramples the media’s First Amendment privilege to withhold confidential-source information under all but the most compelling circumstances.”
Price is seeking $20 million from Time Inc., which publishes the magazine.
11th Circuit Ends Price’s Suit against University
Price, who is represented by Birmingham attorney Steve Heninger, has had a difficult spring in the court room. On April 20, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s ruling that dismissed Price’s $20 million defamation and wrongful termination suit against the university, because Price had not signed a contract.
While Price may have “orally accepted the terms of the draft proposal contract, Alabama’s Statute of Frauds requires that the contract be reduced to writing and signed, which was not the case here,” held the court.
Price Dismisses Alabama President from Action
Prior to the 11th Circuit ruling, Price had sued UA President Robert Witt, whom he accused of acting outside his official capacity as UA president by threatening to resign if the UA System Board of Trustees did not support his decision to fire Price.
Price and his attorney apparently thought better of that challenge, however when they decided earlier this to dismiss Witt from the lawsuit.
“Rather than fight that battle, we’ve decided to go-ahead and focus on Sports Illustrated,” Heninger told the Tuscaloosa News. “I didn’t want to be distracted any more by Dr. Witt, and I’m sure he didn’t want to distracted by me.”
Witt was represented by attorney Stan Starnes, also of Birmingham.


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