Fulmer Back Behind Enemy Lines

HOOVER, Ala. -- Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer made his first, and highly anticipated, public appearance in Alabama on Wednesday since lawyers representing two former Alabama coaches threatened to subpeona him last July as part of a lawsuit against the NCAA.

The lawyers and coaches believe Fulmer, who made his rounds without incident at the annual SEC Media Days in the Wynfrey Hotel, played a prominent role in a conspiracy against the Crimson Tide. Fulmer gave confidential testimony to NCAA investigators concerning an Alabama booster's illegal dealings with a Memphis high school coach, which eventually led to severe NCAA sanctions.

Despite the scrutiny, Fulmer said Wednesday he has no regrets.

"I understand and appreciate the standards and rules we abide by and the governing bodies we are accountable to," Fulmer said. "I have and will defend my program, my coaches and their families and their livelihood, our loyal fans, and especially defend my players' rights to have a level field to compete on."

Fulmer skipped last year's event, opting to address the media via teleconference. He was fined $10,000 by SEC commissioner Mike Slive, but dodged the dilemma of being called as a witness when the lawsuit went to trial.

Fulmer declined to discuss details of the legal case. He said he didn't want to "pour gas on any fires anywhere." Fulmer believes he had an "obligation and duty to keep our game clean" and proclaimed that the cheating in Memphis has stopped.

He also hopes it's the end of an ugly chapter in Alabama that, he said, included "threats of harm" to some of the people involved, including his own family.

"I respect all of our schools and especially the tradition at Alabama and all they've accomplished in the past," Fulmer said. "It's unfortunate that they've had to endure the significant consequences, especially the innocent kids that had nothing to do with any of that, because of the actions of a few.

"You can shoot the messenger if you want or whatever, but you really have to go back to the root of the problem. There was cheating going on in my state. It was affecting my program. I'd like to get back to where (Tennessee and Alabama) have a completely great, clean, tough, hard-fought rivalry and have none of this other stench in it. Whether we can get to that, I don't know.

"But I have no hard feelings against anybody that's a true Alabama fan."

Seeing is believing. That's why instant replay has been in such high demand among Southeastern Conference coaches.

And after further review ... It's coming to the SEC on an experimental basis.

"The instant replay deal is trying to keep the replay people out of actually officiating the game," said SEC Director of Officials Bobby Gaston. "If we had to watch the clock on every play and determine whether the clock started properly or didn't start properly, that's a tedious (process)."

Gaston said he doesn't expect replay to extend games by more than 90 seconds.

"We're walking on uncharted waters so we don't know totally what to expect," Gaston said. "The Big Ten found it worked very well. They found that there was a calm that came over the fans that realized that a particular play was going to be reviewed. Coaches were calling in to the referees, and as a result, even the media concurred that it worked very well.

There already has been a test conducted on the new system. It was used in the Kentucky spring game and also will be used in scrimmages this summer.

Gaston said most plays could be reviewed in the 12 to 14 seconds between each play. Gatson also said he didn't want officials relying too much on the system so they can't make difficult calls.

"I don't want them to give up officiating," Gaston said. "I want them to continue to officiate because we want as few stoppages as we can get. We're going to encourage them to see it, know it and throw it."

League coaches seem excited about instant replay and the possibility it brings.

"Anytime you've got an opportunity to right a wrong, I think it's good," said Florida coach Urban Meyer.

Among the reviewable plays are: 1) Plays governed by sideline; 2) Passing plays; 3) Other detectable infractions.

Among the non-reviewable play are: 1) holding; 2) off-sides/encroachment; 3) pass interference; 4) personal fouls; 5) roughing the passer/kicker.

The SEC also changed some officiating rules, included were intentional grounding, spearing, unsportsmanlike conduct and blocking below the waste or clipping.

SEC Media Days always produces several interesting quotes and Wednesday was no exception. Here are a couple of examples:

• Fulmer on advice he'd give to the SEC's four new coaches, including former Florida coach and rival Steve Spurrier: "I'm not going to give any advice to Steve. he's got all the answers anyway."

• Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron on his depth this season: "Our depth chart will be itched in sand."

• Florida safety Jarvis Herring on all the cameras at SEC Media Days: "I never thought that there would be so many cameras here. I am used to only facing two or three. Before I started, my heart was pumping."

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