BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) – A former assistant football coach at the University of Alabama claims his career was destroyed by a sportswriter who was a “secret witness” for the National Collegiate Athletic Association during its investigation into the storied college football program.
Plaintiff Ronald Cottrell says he sued Tom Culpepper, a freelance sportswriter, and the NCAA in Tuscaloosa circuit court in 2002, and received a $30 million judgment for libel, slander and conspiracy, among other things. He claimed “the parties used Cottrell as a ‘whipping boy’ in order to bring charges against wealthy UA booster Logan Young, under a theory that if they could get Young, and they could get the ‘big man’ at UA, the falling of the dominos would result in inflicting the most severe sanctions (the death penalty) against the UA football program. Through their tortious and malicious conduct, the parties destroyed Cottrell’s reputation and promising career in college athletics, and severely damaged the UA football program for a number of years.”
The judgment was thrown out and the court granted the defendants a new trial, which is pending. Cottrell now coaches high school in Alabama.
In his recent complaint in Jefferson County Court, Cottrell claims that before the Tuscaloosa trial, the NCAA agreed to pay Culpepper’s attorney fees as well as any judgment against him in exchange for his release of any claims against the NCAA. After the judgment was set aside, the NCAA rescinded the agreement and gave Culpepper $150,000 for “severance” of the agreement, Cottrell says. He claims the defendants rescinded the indemnity agreement to frustrate any effort he might make to collect judgment.
Cottrell demands damages for conspiracy, fraudulent conveyance and wantonness.
In addition to the NCAA and Culpepper, he sued NCAA president Myles Brand, NCAA general counsel Elsa Kircher Cole and NCAA director of finance and operations Keith Martin.
His lead attorney is Thomas Gallion III with Haskell Slaughter & Young.