Friday, August 22, 2003

Out on a Limb with Lynn Lang

Ex-coach's credibility vital to the NCAA, two U.S. attorneys, the CA, and UT boosters.

Posted By on Fri, Aug 22, 2003 at 4:00 AM

For a deposition last week, University of Tennessee booster Roy "Tennstud" Adams put on his orange UT blazer and a coonskin cap made from a fox that looked like a blond fright wig. He sipped whiskey. He posed for pictures. He underwent four hours of questioning, which is like four minutes for the loquacious Adams. Then he gave recaps on radio sports programs.

Normally, such behavior in the course of legal proceedings might be considered strange, but there isn't much normal about the four-year saga of the recruiting of college football player Albert Means and the federal investigation of charges made by his high school coach Lynn Lang.

Adams was deposed by attorneys and University of Alabama fans Philip Shanks and Tommy Gallion in Shanks' Memphis office in connection with their lawsuit on behalf of former 'Bama assistant coach Ronnie Cottrell against university officials and the NCAA.

The root question in all of this: Did Alabama booster Logan Young pay Lang $150,000 cash to get Means to enroll at Alabama, as Lang said he did in making his guilty plea last November?

After the deposition, Adams said Gallion repeatedly asked him if he really believed Young or anyone would pay $150,000 for a high school defensive lineman.

"I absolutely do," Adams replied, noting that he and Young used to have lunch together a couple times a week for nearly 10 years.

Young says he didn't do it. No matter, say his doubters he's a country clubber and a slave-trader through and through. Alabama disassociated from Young. The NCAA punished Alabama. And when Lang changed his story and pleaded guilty last November, it seemed to be the beginning of the end of the story.

"Anyone not believe it now?" wrote Commercial Appeal columnist Geoff Calkins.

Well, gosh no. Who needs an indictment and trial?

Except that Young has proven to be a hard man to bring down. He remains unindicted. He can afford a first-class defense, including Nashville lawyer Jim Neal and former Shelby County district attorney John Pierotti.

Lang's sentencing has twice been postponed. Some of his story hasn't checked out. He said somebody was supposed to arrange for a ringer to take the college entrance exam for Means, but Means is suiting up for the University of Memphis this fall with impunity. Milton Kirk, Lang's former assistant coach, says Lang screwed him out of his part of the alleged payoff. Lisa Means, Albert's mother, disputes Lang's claim that she got money from him. And Richard Ernsberger, the author who first wrote about the story in his book Bragging Rights, says Lang told him two different stories about whether or not he had children.

There are a lot of people out on the limb with Lang Kirk, the NCAA, the University of Alabama, United States attorneys Fred Godwin and Terry Harris (who used to work for Pierotti), the CA, Adams, and fellow UT booster Karl Schledwitz.

Gallion and Shanks, working on a contingency fee, think they can saw that limb off. Last week, Gallion and Schledwitz had a testy exchange at Ronnie Grisanti's restaurant, before Cottrell intervened, and they wound up shaking hands. Schledwitz well knows the awesome power of the federal government, having been acquitted 10 years ago as a co-defendant in the Harold Ford trial. He says he wouldn't wish an indictment on anyone.

Gallion and Shanks, however, see Adams and Schledwitz as instigators of the Means investigation. Neither is named as a defendant in Cottrell's lawsuit. Whether that lawsuit has merit or is just UT vs. 'Bama radio and Internet fodder should be clear by the end of the year.

There are three dates to watch:

On October 2nd, a state court judge in Tuscaloosa will hear motions to dismiss the case. Shanks says if he prevails, then the NCAA and the University of Alabama will have to give up documents he thinks will help Cottrell make his case. "Look for a flurry of activity after that motion is ruled on," he said.

On October 25th, the universities of Tennessee and Alabama once again square off in Tuscaloosa. Oh, never mind, that's just a football game.

On December 2nd, Lang is scheduled to be sentenced.

Cottrell's lawsuit says the NCAA and Alabama officials, aided by the UT partisans and federal prosecutors, tried to ruin careers and a storied football program. They're seeking $60 million. Never mind that both the universities of Alabama and Tennessee, so long as they employ the likes of Mike Price and John Shumaker, seem perfectly capable of destroying themselves.

Somebody's sensational claims should be borne out or discredited by the time we have a new national champion.


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