Tenn. officials resist volunteering information in ESPN libel lawsuit

TENNESSEE — University of Tennessee officials filed documents infederal court in September in an attempt to avoid the release of recordsthe university claims are private and would cost thousands of dollars toassemble.

The ESPN television network subpoenaed the records, claiming they arerequired for the network’s defense against a defamation suit filed by Tennesseefootball player Reggie Ridley and Victoria Gray, a former athletics departmenttutor.

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

The university is not a party in the suit.

Alan Parker, university counsel, said the network was trying to substitutelegal maneuvering for newsgathering. Negotiations between the network andthe school to ensure none of the documents obtained would be used in anyfuture 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.