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Testimony: $20,000 from Tide booster

SCOTTSBORO (AP) — A Crimson Tide booster's defamation suit against the NCAA has brought out testimony that $20,000 in cash was given to the father of an Alabama football recruit before signing day in 1996.

But Ken Smith, who testified that he received the money, denied it had anything to do with his son's decision to sign with the Crimson Tide. He also said he was intimidated by an NCAA investigator when he made statements that he now says were incorrect.

Smith's testimony came in the trial of a suit filed by a northeast Alabama timberman, Ray Keller of Stevenson, who is seeking $2 million from the National Collegiate Athletic Association. He claims defamation and invasion of privacy stemming from the NCAA's 2002 press release announcing sanctions for recruiting violations at Alabama.

Keller was one of three men described in the report as "rogue boosters" and "the parasites of intercollegiate athletics." The university cut its ties with the three — Keller, the late Logan Young of Memphis and Wendell Smith of Chattanooga, Tenn.

Testimony continued Friday before Jackson County Circuit Judge John Graham in a trial that could last through next week.

Ken Smith of South Pittsburg, Tenn., testified Thursday he received $20,000 from Wendell Smith, who is unrelated, after moving his family to Bridgeport so his son, Kenny Smith, could play football at North Jackson High School in Northeast Alabama.

Smith said Wendell Smith brought $10,000 in $100 bills to his home in late 1995 and another $10,000 in cash before the February 1996 football signing day. He repeatedly said the money came from Young, with Wendell Smith as the middleman.

But late in his testimony he said he thought $11,000 of it came from the late R.D. Hicks, a longtime supporter of North Jackson High athletics.

Ken Smith said he saw no legal or moral problem with taking the money, and that Keller "to my knowledge" had no involvement with the $20,000, which was used partly to buy a car. He said Keller never pressured his son to sign with Alabama. But during a 2001 taped interview with NCAA investigator Richard Johanningmeier, Smith said "it was understood" that Keller would be his son's sponsor for "things a student needs" at Alabama.

Kenny Smith signed with Alabama but never joined the team because of grades.

Ken Smith said he felt intimidated during the June 2001 interview with Johanningmeier, Alabama faculty athletics representative Gene Marsh and Rich Hilliard, a University of Alabama attorney.

Smith said the tape recorder was turned off during that interview, at which time Johanningmeier told him the IRS could be contacted about the $20,000. Smith also claimed Johanningmeier mischaracterized information.

NCAA attorney Allen Dodd repeatedly played portions of the interview and asked Smith if what he had told Johanningmeier was correct. Smith said it was not, or he "thought it was true at the time but now I know it's false."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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