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State high court hears Cottrell's arguments
Ex-Tide coach wants
$30 million reinstated

By Mark Edwards
medwards@decaturdaily.com 340-2461

Former Alabama assistant football coach Ronnie Cottrell got his day in front of the Alabama Supreme Court on Tuesday as his attorneys argued to reinstate a $30 million jury verdict in his favor.

In July 2005, a Tuscaloosa County ruled that recruiting analyst Tom Culpepper owed Cottrell $6 million in compensatory damages and $24 million in punitive damages. Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge Steve Wilson set that verdict aside and ordered a new trial.

Montgomery attorneys Thomas Gallion and William Slaughter and Tuscaloosa attorney Delaine Mountain argued in front of the nine-judge panel for Cottrell on Tuesday.

"The judges asked a lot of questions," said Memphis attorney Philip Shanks III, who represents Cottrell and grew up in Decatur.

"We can't tell whether they're agreeing with us or not. But we think we got a fair hearing."

Shanks said Gallion spoke for about five minutes and "was very spirited," while Mountain spoke for about five minutes and Slaughter, the lead attorney on the appeal, for about 15 minutes. The proceeding took about two hours, and Shanks said the court is under no timetable for a decision.

This case has its origins in an NCAA infractions case against the Tide football program, which was decided in February 2002.

Cottrell and former Alabama assistant Ivy Williams filed suit afterward, saying they were damaged by accusations in the NCAA case. The civil case originally included Williams and was filed against the NCAA as well as Culpepper, who was a witness against Alabama. However, the case against the NCAA was dismissed early in the July 2005 trial. All that was left was Cottrell's claims against Culpepper.

"The NCAA has ruined Ronnie's career," Shanks said. "Three major universities tried to hire him last fall, including two from the Southeastern Conference."

Shanks said the NCAA interfered in each of those three cases.

Cottrell is the head football coach at Carroll High in Ozark. Williams served as an assistant coach for him this past season. Williams, an assistant at Alabama during 1994-2000, has moved to Northwestern Oklahoma State University of the NAIA, where he is offensive line coach and assistant head coach.

"The one great thing is that Ronnie got to tell his story, and a jury awarded him $30 million," Shanks said. "If the Supreme Court takes this away — they cannot take this away without consequences."

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