Tenn. officials resist volunteering information in ESPN libel lawsuit

University accuses network of using court to get news

TENNESSEE -- University of Tennessee officials filed documents in federal court in September in an attempt to avoid the release of records the university claims are private and would cost thousands of dollars to assemble.

The ESPN television network subpoenaed the records, claiming they are required for the network's defense against a defamation suit filed by Tennessee football player Reggie Ridley and Victoria Gray, a former athletics department tutor.

Ridley and Gray filed their separate federal suits, each asking $2 million in damages, last year after the network alleged massive academic fraud by the schoolís athletics program in stories published on its Internet site in September 1999.

The university is not a party in the suit.

Alan Parker, university counsel, said the network was trying to substitute legal maneuvering for newsgathering. Negotiations between the network and the school to ensure none of the documents obtained would be used in any future stories broke down.

At the time of publication, no hearing had been set to settle the dispute.

Ridley's and Gray's lawsuits will go to trial this spring.

reports, Winter 2000-01