Logan Young walks into the French Quarter Inn, locates the reporter he has agreed to talk to, and sits down.
I just dont know when this is all going to end, he sighs. I mean, it just keeps getting bigger and better.
Better for newspapers and University of Tennessee football fans, maybe, but not better for Young. The University of Alabama booster and onetime owner of the Memphis Showboats is, you might say, the usual suspect in the alleged $200,000 payment to former Trezevant High School football coach Lynn Lang for sending lineman Albert Means to Alabama. Before that story broke in December, Young was fodder for Internet rumors about recruiting violations. Last fall the rumors made it into a book, Bragging Rights: A Season Inside the SEC, by Richard Ernsberger Jr., and Youngs name has been appearing regularly in newspaper, Internet, and broadcast accounts since then.
After months of denying those reports, Young and his attorney, Louis F. Allen, are considering a defamation lawsuit against Youngs nemesis, UT superfan Roy Adams, for comments made by Adams on the Internet site Gridscape.com.
Adams, who goes by the screen name Tennstud, is known for wearing orange blazers and a white coonskin cap at booster group meetings. As Ernsberger outlines in his book, Adams and Young used to be friends until their kidding took a nasty turn.
I saw him at Folks Folly a few years ago and asked him what the deal was, Young says. He said he was just putting out what he heard on the street. Now I think it has gotten to where he thinks he is the self-appointed savior of high school recruiting in Memphis. Or at least Tennessees recruiting.
I think Roy has become enamored of the Internet. We have been keeping a file for at least a year. The lawsuit was drawn up before this thing with Lang and Means. The Internet definitely stirred it up and keeps it going.
Lawyers with experience handling defamation cases say the semi-anonymity of an Internet chat room is no protection against libel.
Dissemination is the key, says Jerry Mitchell. An e-mail from, say, one employee to another is private, but a defamatory comment on a Web site could bring legal action.
Internet libel is a hot topic, says S. Russell Headrick, who is currently defending ESPN in a lawsuit involving comments made on the air and on its Web site about a UT football player and academic tutor.
In some cases, attorneys have gone to webmasters to learn the identities behind screen names. While many of the postings on Gridscape.com are anonymous, Adams lists his real name, age, and biographical information in his Tennstud profile.
The references to Logan Young range from coy suspicions to flat-out accusations: that Young gave money and cars to Lang and Melrose High School football coach Tim Thompson; that Young laundered money at Tunica casinos; that former University of Memphis football coach Rip Scherer told Alabama athletic director Mal Moore about illegal recruiting in Memphis last spring. In Bragging Rights, Ernsberger includes a denial from Young but devotes several pages to the unsubstantiated allegations of Adams, buttressed by an unnamed source who says of Young, Yeah, hed do it.
The story really took off after Langs former colleague, Milton Kirk, went public with his claim that Lang shopped Means for $200,000. Whatever the source of the accusations, Young denies giving cars or money to Thompson or Lang or to an intermediary.
I didnt give anybody any money and I just dont believe it happened, Young says. I hate to say that about Kirk because he may think it happened, I dont know. I just know I didnt do it and I know that [former Alabama football recruiter] Ivy Williams didnt know anything about it because I talked to Ivy when he was in Memphis. And I asked Ivy after I heard all this: ÔDid they ask you for any money? He said they didnt. And Ivy told the NCAA that.
Young says he met Lang for the first time last year after Bragging Rights came out.
Louis Allen had both him [Lang] and Tim Thompson come to his office at separate times, he says. They both showed him a note on a car that they owned and what they paid monthly. I think Tims was two or three years old. And I think Lynn had bought his car in Dyersburg or somewhere, but he had a note and a very small down payment. I dont think its hard to lease a nice car. I mean, a guy that makes $40,000 can lease a car.
Young says he first met Thompson six or seven years ago at a Touchdown Club meeting. Asked if he had seen Thompson lately, he says, Well, I have since last summer because hes anxious for me to sue the book people. He adds that Thompson never asked him for anything except summer jobs for players, which Young says he arranged through an Alabama fan in Germantown.
Young and Mal Moore have been friends for several years.
Nice guy, really nice guy, and an honest guy, says Young. And to say that he knew what was going on ... . Well, he got upset about it and called Rip Scherer. He said this guy on the Internet is saying that illegal things are going on and you told me about it. And Rip wrote him a letter and said thats not true, and sent it to the SEC commissioner.
Scherer confirmed to the Flyer that he wrote such a letter to the commissioner and copied Moore on it.
Basically it said it has been reported that I had notified Mal Moore a while ago as to goings-on in Memphis, and I just told him that I indeed sat with Moore [at a banquet] but I never made that statement, Scherer said.
Young says no investigators have talked to him.
I dont know who all is investigating, he says. I read that the FBI is. If somebody is crazy enough to give $200,000 to a coach to get a football player, I guess hes got a tax problem. I dont think it happened, and I would bet a lot of money that it didnt happen. I never in my life heard anything like it.
Investigators did ask Youngs former secretary about several matters, including whether he goes to Tunica casinos and where he bought his car. Young says he hasnt been to Tunica in a year and a half and drives a Jaguar from Bluff City Jaguar.
The story has had its comic moments. During the Liberty Bowl game telecast, an announcer said Young was believed to be involved in illegal recruiting at Kentucky. Pepper Rodgers, the former Showboats coach, called Young to joke that he hadnt realized he was a Kentucky booster.
I said I didnt either. So they came back later and ran the story twice but without my name. So obviously somebody must have said they got it mixed up.
Young says he expects his lawsuit to be filed this week. Libel lawsuits, however, can be perilous to all parties. Youngs hero, legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant, was involved in the most famous sports libel lawsuit of all time. In 1963, the Saturday Evening Post published a story that claimed Bryant and Georgia athletic director and former coach Wally Butts conspired to fix a game. In separate suits, Bryant and Butts charged that the story was libelous.
The book Fumble, by James Kirby, exposed numerous contradictions in Bryants statements. But the suit was to be tried in Birmingham, and the Bear reached a settlement with the Post. In the Butts lawsuit, depositions brought to light his drinking and extramarital affairs. He won at trial and again on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but his reputation was badly damaged. He was forced to resign as athletic director and never got back into the game.