Fulmer's family threatened

If Phillip Fulmer handles the coming season the way he handled SEC Media Days in Birmingham, Tennessee's football team may score a lot of points this fall. Basically, the Vol coach went on the offensive from the start.

Fulmer, who missed 2004 Media Days to avoid being subpoenaed for a trial involving two former University of Alabama football aides and the NCAA, was fined $10,000 for last year's absence. Although UT officials picked up the tab, Fulmer joked about the incident in his opening remarks.

"I haven't seen the commissioner yet," he told the assembled media. "But if you see him make sure he knows that I was here because it can be expensive when you don't show up."

Fulmer's mood quickly turned from light-hearted to heavy-handed, however. Without specifically mentioning Tommy Gallion, attorney for fired Bama aides Ivy Williams and Ronnie Cottrell, the Vol coach noted that some people had been reduced to "theatrics that were worthy of Oscars." Moreover, Fulmer confided that his wife and daughters had been subjected to "threats of harm" during the past year.

"I do not take that lightly," he said, "and I am not well over that yet, as far as being angry about that."

Ultimately, the case against the NCAA was dismissed and Alabama booster Logan Young was found guilty of making illegal payments to help steer Memphis-area high school standouts to the Crimson Tide football program.

"There was cheating in Memphis, Tennessee," Fulmer noted. "A lot of coaches and others tried to stop it, federal courts proved it, consequences were assessed and a few people outside the mainstream of college sports tried to retaliate and lost the ridiculous and absurd conspiracy theories in the courts."

Although Fulmer's testimony to the NCAA regarding recruiting violations in Memphis helped get Alabama penalized and placed on probation, he made clear at Media Days that he has no regrets about his role in the investigation.

"I truly believe that we all have an obligation and responsibility to keep our game clean of these people to the best of our abilities," Fulmer said, referring to out-of-control boosters. "I do appreciate and thank the people at the levels of this process that did the right thing, and the cheating in Memphis has stopped."

Still, the Vol coach made clear that his testimony to the NCAA was not intended to topple the Tide but to support his own program.

"I have and will (continue to) defend my program, my coaches and their families and their livelihoods, our loyal fans, and especially defend my players' rights to have a level field to compete on," he said.

Before putting the topic to rest, Fulmer took a parting shot at Gallion and others who have turned the Memphis recruiting scandal into an ongoing media circus by noting that some have chosen "to wallow in the stench of cheating for publicity purposes."

Last year, Fulmer was backed into a corner. This year he came out swinging.

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