A weekly press conference for a college head football coach is an unusual happening as questions from journalists aren’t typically restricted to the upcoming game. They can come from all directions on any topic.
And so it was when Mike Price, the Head Football Coach at the University of Texas at El Paso, took his seat on October 4 that journalists asked about a settlement he had just reached with Sports Illustrated over his defamation claim. The litigation was spawned by SI’s story that Price was involved in a sexual tryst with strippers shortly after taking the University of Alabama football job.
“For 2½ years I continued to state that the article was not true and that I would prove it and clear my name,” Price said at the time. “We continued to win court battles as we kept recording interviews with people who would prove what was in the article was not true.”
Those comments were made on the heels of the following prepared statement by Price:
“I got a great victory this weekend. Two and a half years ago, Sports Illustrated published an article about me. … For two and a half years, I continued to state that the article was not true and that I would prove it and clear my name.”
For those and other comments, Time Inc., the parent of SI, asked a court on Oct. 13 to issue what is tantamount to an excessive celebration penalty. Specifically, it claimed Price and Birmingham attorney Steve Heninger violated an agreement to make only limited public comments about the agreement.
Heninger was identified because his prepared statement, while less lengthy, might also be construed as celebratory. His statement was that “we have won every legal battle at every corner. We think we have vindicated his name. Two and a half years ago we said we would, and we think we have.”
Time Inc. specifically asked Federal Judge Lynwood Smith to dismiss Price’s suit and to make the coach pay its attorney fees. While the court has yet to rule on that motion at press time, it did grant Time’s request to seal court documents related to terms of the settlement.
Time’s public comment after the settlement was as follows:
“Mike Price and Sports Illustrated have amicably resolved the lawsuit brought by Mr. Price following publication of the story ‘Bad Behavior: How he met his Destiny at a Strip Club’ on May 12, 2003. Mr. Price asserts that certain events were falsely reported in the story. Sports Illustrated continues to stand behind its story. Both parties have agreed that the terms of the resolution are confidential.”