Plaintiffs Testimony Continues

After months of hard work by NCAA attorneys to get Judge Steve Wilson to throw out claims of conspiracy, negligence and all but two lines of possible defamation committed by the NCAA, the infractions imposed by the private organization were the topic that permeated defense questions in Tuscaloosa Circuit Court Monday as the plaintiffs took the witness stand in the fifth day of the $60 million lawsuit.

Ronnie Cottrell and Ivy Williams' claim of defamation against Tom Culpepper and Williams' claim of defamation against the NCAA, solely regarding the posting of a "show cause" restriction against "employees" on the summary page of the infractions report, are the only matters left for the jury to decide in the case.

NCAA attorney Robert Rutherford cross examined Williams for nearly two and a half hours, introducing numerous articles that implicated Williams in what the NCAA found to be the illegal recruitment of Albert Means.

"They're trying to smear him again right here in front of this court and in front of this jury," plaintiff attorney Delaine Mountain protested to the judge. "We move to exclude this whole line of questioning."

Mountain's objection was overruled after a conference among the attorneys and Wilson at the bench.

Under direct examination, Cottrell testified that Culpepper became upset with him when Mike DuBose limited the access of recruiting analysts from the football complex, including Culpepper, and that's when he began saying negative things about Cottrell.

Cottrell recounted one Culpepper outburst after the 1999 Tennessee victory over Alabama in Tuscaloosa. He acted out Culpepper's tone in stepping between he and recruiting analyst Freddie Kirby, who were talking.

"Tom stepped between us and said, ‘I can help y'all! I can help y'all! I know who the DBs (defensive backs) are! Why won't you let me help y'all,'" Cottrell testified.

Cottrell also said under oath that he got several calls from boosters who told him he should hire Culpepper when he hired an assistant.

Under direct examination Cottrell said that he was upset with several of the secondary violations that were made against him, but that he "took the punishment" because he was following the guidance of Mike DuBose.

Cottrell testified that the loan he received from Logan Young was a bridge loan on behalf of his sister, and that the loan was paid back when the house she had been living in was sold. The loan was for $55,000, notarized and filed properly in compliance director Marie Robbins' office.

The NCAA said Cottrell's failure to acknowledge that loan when asked if Logan Young had paid him $200,000 to leave Florida State and come to Alabama was cause for the unethical conduct charge.

Cottrell also testified that he had never taken money from a golf tournament in Choctaw County, that he never took money from Shaun Alexander's charitable foundation, did not abandon his family, did not pay players and did not take money from Logan Young to come to Alabama, all claims alleged to have been made against him by Culpepper.

Culpepper attorney John Scott, attempting to present other explanations for the coaches' inability to secure comparable employment since their firing in 2000, seized on any suggestion of wrongdoing other than Culpepper's alleged defamation in his cross examination of the coaches Monday.

His cross examination of Williams was largely repetitive of the NCAA's questions, but Scott took on Cottrell alone since he no longer has claims against the NCAA before the court.

Scott began a long foray into the minutiae of secondary violations against Cottrell which the University of Alabama did not contest in the infractions report.

A lengthy portion of the questioning centered around whether Cottrell had been cited for "recruiting" violations. Cottrell said none of the uncontested secondary violations involved recruiting, but Scott's contention was that having Michael Gaines driven to his house was a "recruiting" violation.

The elongated arguments centered partly on whether or not Gaines was still a prospective student athlete or a student athlete.

The cross examination of Cottrell began at 3:40 p.m. and recessed around 5 p.m. when the court broke for the day. Scott is expected to continue his questioning of Cottrell Tuesday morning.

After the court proceedings, plaintiff attorney Delaine Mountain said that the plaintiffs plan to wrap up their case Tuesday.

At that time, both defendants are likely to ask the judge to dismiss the case. If none of the claims are dismissed, the NCAA is expected to present Cheryl DeWees and Shep Cooper to explain how the errors appeared on the NCAA web site.

Culpepper's attorneys will go last in putting on their case.

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