Cottrell Trial Fallout

What now? What now that Ronnie Cottrell has his good name back, that Tom Culpepper (and, maybe the NCAA) are $30 million lighter in the pocket and a two-week trial is finally over?

Will Tommy Gallion and his Team Cottrell-style crusade against the NCAA and Phillip Fulmer go away?

Will Ivy Williams ever get his case against the NCAA to a jury?

Will Gallion ever get the NCAA back in court?

Rarely has an ending ever felt so much like a beginning.

Technically, when the Tuscaloosa County jury returned a $30 million verdict against Culpepper for his defamatory comments against Cottrell, the former Alabama recruiting coordinator, a case ended. Cottrell got some much-needed vindication, which could make his quest to return to college football much easier.

And on paper, at least, he got a price tag for his suffering.

But so much remains unresolved. In the trial's aftermath, it has become clear that Gallion, Cottrell and Williams' nearly three-year crusade against the NCAA has at least a couple years left in it.

Soon the appeals will begin.

Cottrell and Williams will appeal Judge Steve Wilson's decision to excuse the NCAA and conspiracy claims from the trial.

Culpepper will appeal the $30 million verdict against him.

And Gallion will appeal Wilson's decision to hide what he believes is an indemnity agreement with the NCAA that pays Culpepper's legal fees and – possibly – any judgment entered against him.

That process will take at least a year, probably longer.

The legal battle will be waged on multiple fronts – in Tuscaloosa and in Montgomery, home of the Alabama Supreme Court.

And if John Scott is to be believed, it will be fought in the news media, too.

Scott learned Friday how crucial Alabama's sports writers are in the battle of perception. During his opening argument, he sent a nasty barb towards the writers gathered in the gallery covering the trial, something along the lines of how he was surprised the trial was receiving so much media coverage when there were wars being fought across the world.

Unlike Gallion, he stuck to the facts and seemed distant to the jury.

It cost him when the jury entered its huge verdict, and you'd better believe Scott and his client will handle public relations differently this time around.

They'll argue that Culpepper didn't say what he did to who Cottrell said he did, argue that the verdict was too high and that it should be thrown out altogether.

Maybe they'll succeed, considering Wilson's flip-flop nature that saw Williams go from a private figure to a public one and Cottrell from a public figure to private in the last week of the trial alone.

More interesting will be Gallion's continuing crusade against the NCAA; he said as the trial wound down that he had a "cast-iron stomach" for an appeal.

His pursuit of the giant organization is rejuvenated these days, especially considering the Tuscaloosa jury's apparent hunger to send a message for what it believed was wrongdoing.

Jury foreman Joseph Santina said Friday that he and his fellow jurors were "disappointed" that Williams' case against the NCAA was thrown out, and that they would likely have awarded him damages.

And that's just on the claim that the NCAA's website summary of Alabama's charges – which never mentioned Williams by name – defamed him and injured his career. How many zeroes would have been in the settlement had the conspiracy case stayed in play? And how scared is the NCAA now? NCAA lawyers claimed they'd scored a huge victory when Williams' final claim was thrown out, but they must be wondering what will happen once Gallion files an appeal with the Alabama Supreme Court. Gallion badly wants a crack at the NCAA in Tuscaloosa; he took out some of his frustrations by calling former NCAA enforcement director Mark Jones to the stand last Thursday.

Jones was less than a peripheral witness in Williams' case, but Gallion didn't care. He had a nasty, probing line of questioning, and one can bet he's primed for more of the same if he can get the NCAA back in court someday.

And you'd better believe he and the rest of his legal team will try every possible avenue to make that happen.

That could take years.

If you enjoyed the Cottrell trial, congratulations. This saga is only getting started.

Greg Wallace is the Alabama beat writer for the Birmingham Post-Herald. He writes a weekly colum for

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