College Football College Football

'Rogue booster' Smith sues NCAA

Posted: Tuesday August 12, 2003 1:11 PM
Updated: Tuesday August 12, 2003 2:12 PM

SCOTTSBORO, Ala. (AP) -- Wendell Smith has filed suit against the NCAA, which labeled him a "rogue booster" following its investigation into Alabama's football program.

Smith's suit in Jackson County Circuit Court seeks unspecified punitive damages, alleging defamation and an invasion of privacy have hurt his reputation and his career.

The NCAA placed Alabama on probation in February 2001 for recruiting violations, including allegations that Smith, a car salesman in Chattanooga, Tenn., provided $20,000, lodging and entertainment as an inducement to prospect Kenny Smith. The Smiths are not related.

Wendell Smith's attorney, Robert Ray of Fort Payne, said the NCAA acted in a "reckless, extreme and outrageous" manner against his client. He said Smith was not a Crimson Tide booster and the charges were not true.

"A proper investigation of the facts would've avoided this," Ray said. "We know these allegations are false."

A spokesman for the NCAA did not immediately return a phone message Tuesday.

Kenny Smith, a defensive lineman at Stevenson High School, originally signed with Alabama after the 1996 football season but didn't qualify academically and later went to Tennessee.

Wendell Smith's lawsuit names the NCAA and members of the Committee on Infractions, including chairman Thomas Yeager. It is unrelated to a suit filed in Tuscaloosa by former Tide coaches Ronnie Cottrell and Ivy Williams against the NCAA, Alabama and a number of individuals.

"My main concern is with the NCAA," Wendell Smith said. "I don't want to do anything to hurt the University of Alabama."

He has admitted giving Kenny Smith $20,000 in the mid-1990s and arranging financing for three automobiles for the player's family. But he maintains that it had nothing to do with Alabama.

The NCAA's Committee on Infractions found that Wendell Smith told the prospect's family that the $20,000 came from Memphis businessman Logan Young -- also labeled a "rogue booster"-- and arranged meetings between the prospect, his father and Young.

The NCAA also said Smith drove the prospect's father to Memphis to collect the remainder of the $20,000.

Wendell Smith said he has never contributed money to the Tide athletic program or purchased Alabama season tickets. He has said Kenny Smith was just one of many high school players he has tried to help over the years.

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