Lawyer at the center of media attention

Say P.T. Barnum went to law school for three years instead of founding a circus.

Then, say he moved to a college football-mad state, hung out his shingle and joined a prominent law firm.

The resulting mix might walk, talk and sound a lot like Thomas Gallion.

Gallion -- the Montgomery-based attorney -- keeps entertaining University of Alabama fans and infuriating University of Tennessee fans with what have become regular revelations surrounding the just-concluded investigation into Alabama's football program and what Gallion considers a conspiracy to destroy Alabama football wrought by UT, the NCAA, the FBI and the federal government.

Gallion, of course, has uncovered said conspiracy while working a $60 million lawsuit brought by former UA assistant football coaches Ronnie Cottrell and Ivy Williams against the NCAA and other various parties, including NCAA Committee on Infractions Chairman Thomas Yeager, NCAA investigator Rich Johannegmeier, University of Alabama employees Gene Marsh and Marie Robbins, recruiting analyst Tom Culpepper and Indianapolis lawyer Rich Hilliard (who was UA counsel during the NCAA's investigation).

Tuesday, he held another well-attended press conference, this one in the spacious Birmingham offices of Haskell, Slaughter, Young and Gallion law firm.

This time, Gallion gathered news media to announce he was taking the case to Washington -- hopefully with help from Alabama senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby.

"What we're asking for here today, based on the documentation we have out of court in Memphis is a congressional investigation into what has gone on in Memphis, a congressional investigation into the NCAA," Gallion said.

"How (the NCAA) operates like the Mafia or Gestapo, how they cut deals with colleges to get other colleges. The entire thing is a hideous, hideous mess and if it's not straightened out, it's going to ruin college athletics in this country, in my opinion."

Former Tide Recruiting Coordinator Ronnie Cottrell (left) talks with his lawyer, Tommy Gallion (right).

It was another hour-and-a-half of what us media types, as well as Alabama fans, have come to expect from Gallion and his team of lawyers: information mixed with hyperbole and enough colorful words to fill a rainbow.

Gallion's hyperbole skills make radio shock jock Howard Stern look like a Puritan minister.

Maybe that's why this case has taken on a life of its own. Gallion is, for lack of a better word, a guilty pleasure.

With his white, curly hair and ever-moving mouth, Gallion is to courtrooms what the Star or National Enquirer are to supermarket checkout lines.

Whether what he says can be corroborated in open court and accepted by a jury or not, it is truly fascinating.

Gallion's released documents are like an "E! True Hollywood Story" covering the last five years in the life of the Alabama football program. From them, we've gotten insight on Dennis Franchione's departure to Texas A&M. We've learned, through NCAA-conducted interviews, no less, that Fulmer acted as a secret witness against the Tide football program during the NCAA's investigation.

A comment and an observation here:

  1. I wouldn't want to be the agent assigned to ensure Fulmer's anonymity and protection (from Alabama fans) in any sort of witness protection program.
  2. Next time anyone has a conversation with Fulmer, check for a wire.

The most important question left unanswered, it seems, is whether anything will come of the investigation and lawsuit. Gallion and Co. are fighting to unseal untold NCAA documents in the case.

If they ultimately succeed, things could really get interesting.

By nature, the NCAA and its investigators are extremely private and proprietary with their information. Gallion's goal, it seems, is to pull back the curtain and expose the wizard he believes is running the show from behind.

A year-plus into the lawsuit, Gallion and his co-counsel have kept the state of Alabama intrigued with myriad accusations and juicy bits of information.

He is the man most Alabama fans probably wish they had on their side when the original NCAA investigation came down -- although he probably wouldn't have had much affect, considering that Gallion and Co. believe that the NCAA and Tennessee had an agenda to destroy Crimson Tide football all along.

But it sure would have been fun to have him along for the ride: Gallion's wit alone is worth the price of admission.

The man knows his audience: Tuesday, he took more than his share of potshots at Fulmer -- or, as some Alabama fans now call him, "Phatlock."

Gallion said he wasn't trying to take down the University of Tennessee or its football program.

Then, he said he "didn't care if Phil Fulmer waddled into a lake up there."

BamaMag.com is pleased to feature regular columns from Greg Wallace, one of the most talented writers on the Bama beat.

An avid sports fan whose job "just happens" to give him a seat in the front-row, Wallace is entering his third year writing for the Birmingham Post-Herald. He is a 2000 graduate of the University of Iowa, where he was a journalism and history major.

You can contact Greg at: gwrite1178@aol.com, and read his work daily at PostHerald.com.

Later, a reporter asked Gallion about his comment that he was "getting ready to pop that fat bastard (Fulmer)" in a recent interview with Mike Fish of sportsillustrated.com.

"I guess I should have called him 'Slim Jim Angel,'" Gallion opined.

Cue the laugh track.

Yes, it is giggle inducing, but does it have substance?

That remains to be seen. The NCAA has said nothing about its side of the case, and despite what most Alabama fans would like to believe, a judge or jury will not simply roll over and award Gallion and his clients millions just because he feels they deserve it.

If the facts Gallion and his lawyers dig up are more compelling than the evidence the NCAA presents, they'll win their case. If not, they won't. That's what makes America great.

That, and lawyers like Thomas Gallion.


BamaMag Top Stories