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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

''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."
--Phil Fulmer's press release.

There are some Vols fans out there who would argue that the Tennessee/Alabama rivalry has lost a bit of its luster the past couple of years. Certainly, in the Vol Nation with our winning eight out of the last nine games against our once dreaded rivals, there is the feeling that it's more important to the Vols to now take care of business against Florida and/or Georgia than it is Alabama. And while I agree that there is a good sense of rivalry there between the Vols and the Gators and the Vols and the Dawgs, as a Tennessee fan, there's just nothing quite as satisfying as beating Alabama--hell, even it was a game of pick-up sticks and it was us vs. Bama, I'd want the Big Orange to win.

Last year's Alabama game, which went to five OTs, certainly showed that. This game is a huge one on the field to the player involved. If you don't get why UT vs Bama is big, you probably just don't quite get the greatness that is UT football.

Of course, this year's game should be a barn-burner with a lot of hard feelings and grudges out laid out in the open. And that's just the fans. Heaven only knows what it will be like on the field when October rolls around.

And adding fuel to the fire this week, Phillip Fulmer's decision not to attend SEC Media Days due to the possiblity of being subpenaed if he sets foot in the state of Alabama. Certainly, it has given the talk radio shows and the sports pages a ton of ink to spill and I'm sure the message boards are burning up with fans calling for blood. And as much as I'd like to see Fulmer say, "Screw them! They can't intimadate me!" and head on down there, I can understand why he doesn't go. If you're going to pay a lawyer a ton of money to tell you what to do to protect yourself legally--even if you're in the right and you know it--then you shold probably listen to that advice. And the reports out of Knoxville are that Fulmer wanted to go, but his legal team advised him not to and the university decided to heed that, eat the fine and set up a teleconfrence. (According to some sources, UT also felt that the players shouldn't go as well, but Fulmer convinced them otherwise--after all, this is supposed to be about celebrating SEC football, not some legal suit brought about by a bunch of boosters with their noses out of whack).

Goodness, there are some fans in Alabama who have been watching way too many repeats of the X-Files. Their program committed some major violations and Fulmer did what he had to do--turned them in. Sure, he didn't go the Spurrier route and send a nasty letter and threaten them, but Fulmer did testify to the NCAA along with two other coaches. Yet, a small group of fans who are led by some lawyers want to drag this thing through the legal system. It doesn't help that Fulmer turned in one of the Vols' biggest rivals. It also doesn't help that he's remained mum about this, until this week that is, thus adding fuel to the fire. He must be covering up something, you think, because he's scared. Again, I go back to--you are paying these lawyers are ton of cash and they give tell you what to do. You'd be stupid not to follow their legal wisdom. I think it's a shame that a small number of Bama fans have to ruin the reputation of the majority of the fans out there. I respect those of you out there who are Bama fans. You like your team, I like mine. A couple of weekends a year, we disagree. But this small group of fans that just can't let go, that can't get over the fact that you broke the rules, you got caugh and are paying the penalty--it's time to let go. The University of Alabama has. They accepted the penalites and sanctions. They served their time and are bowl eligible this year. This small group of fans needs to get over it, move on and maybe take some steps back toward enjoying this great rivalry again.



posted by Michael Hickerson at 7/28/2004 09:16:00 PM | |
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