UT Pulls Fulmer from SEC Media Days

Phillip Fulmer's participation in this week's annual SEC Media Days in Birmingham, Ala., will be strictly by phone, as the University of Tennessee Director of Athletics Mike Hamilton has decided UT's head coach will not attend the event.

Fulmer will be available to media members during his scheduled 10:30 a.m. time session. UT senior captains Kevin Burnett and Michael Munoz will make appearances as originally scheduled.

Hamilton explained Fulmer's absence in a prepared statement released by the university.

"The University of Tennessee and Head Football Coach Phillip Fulmer continue to be attacked by a small number of individuals about matters unrelated to on-field competition. Coach Fulmer has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed in Alabama by the same attorneys who have filed a suit against the NCAA. Coach Fulmer's attorneys have advised him not to attend SEC Media Days in Birmingham.

"After much discussion with staff, and with the advice of the general counsel for the university, Dr. Petersen and I fully support Coach Fulmer's decision not to attend SEC Media Days. In cooperating with NCAA investigators, Coach Fulmer has acted properly and in the best interest of the University of Tennessee, the SEC and college football.

"The purpose of SEC Media Days is to provide an opportunity for coaches and players to talk to media about the upcoming season. It has become obvious that Coach Fulmer's participation in this event would focus attention away from our football team and our players who will be attending the event. For this reason, we believe it is in the best interest of the university and our football program that Coach Fulmer not attend."

The decision for Fulmer not to attend the preseason kickoff to the upcoming SEC season was intended to keep Media Days from becoming a media circus, but it did focus attention onto a situation that has been festering for half-a-decade.

Fulmer addressed the subject in a statement released by the university. It follows here in its entirety.

"I am very upset to not have the opportunity to be in Birmingham with my players for the 12th year. We always have come early and stayed late to accommodate everyone we can. I greatly appreciate the support of my president, Dr. Petersen, and my athletics director, Mike Hamilton, and the understanding of Tennessee people in this matter. I also appreciate the support and backing of the NCAA and the AFCA as we try to make a stand for what's right.

"I am not attending Media Days because of the legal circus that has been created by an isolated group of attorneys. They want to hijack Media Days for their own benefit but I am not going to allow that to happen. This day is for the players. They should be center stage instead of this small group of lawyers who intend on attacking the integrity of the NCAA's enforcement process.

"When you get behind all the smoke and the big pile of lawsuits, the truth still stands: rules were broken, an investigation proved it, those who broke the rules admitted their guilt, and a university paid the price. There are a few people who cannot accept the truth, so they file lawsuits hoping the truth will go away.

"As one of several coaches contacted by the NCAA regarding these serious violations by a small group of boosters, my response was honest, in line with our code of conduct, and the right thing to do.

"I have great respect for all our sister institutions and the rivalries we share. I take seriously my responsibility to protect the integrity of our profession and our conference, and I know our administration and our fans expect nothing less than that of me. As coaches, our greatest fear is outside involvement of out-of-control boosters, agents, and gamblers that do harm to college programs. None of us benefit when those outside agents get any school on probation.

"University presidents founded the NCAA as our governing body some 100 years ago and it has served college football well. There are those who want to attack the integrity of the NCAA's enforcement authority, but I do not believe they will be successful in intimidating the NCAA or other coaches from doing what is right.

The SEC office can levy a $10,000 against a member school for not attending media days. Under prevailing circumstances, Tennessee is expected to appeal for relief from the financial penalty.

How future trips to Alabama by Fulmer will be handled wasn't addressed in either statement.

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