EL PASO, Texas – Texas-El Paso football coach Mike Price felt vindicated after a settlement was reached with Time Inc. over a Sports Illustrated article recounting a night of drinking at a topless bar in Florida.
“I’m one happy man right now,” Price said Monday. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciated my wife, Joyce, and my family’s loyalty and love. Without their strength, encouragement and support I don’t know if I would have made it.”
Price sued the magazine for $20 million, claiming he was defamed and slandered by a story detailing his actions the night he visited a topless bar in Pensacola, Fla., in April 2003 while still head coach at Alabama.
He acknowledged being heavily intoxicated, but denied allegations of sex at his hotel that the magazine reported. Alabama fired Price a few days before the article was published.
When asked about that night at the strip club, the former Washington State coach said, “I definitely would have made a different decision that one night, no question.
“That was a bad night.”
Price, who made his comments during UTEP’s regularly weekly news conference, said he couldn’t discuss any details of the settlement reached late Friday. In a statement, the publisher did not disclose terms but said the suit was “amicably resolved.”
“Mr. Price asserts that certain events were falsely reported in the story. Sports Illustrated continues to stand behind its story,” the Time Inc. statement said. Time Inc. owns Sports Illustrated.
Rick McCabe, a spokesman for Time Inc., said the settlement also resolved Price’s claims against reporter Don Yaeger, who wrote the SI article and still works for the magazine.
The lawsuit was closely watched in part because it developed into a fight over the magazine’s right to protect confidential sources.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July that Alabama law did not protect Sports Illustrated from having to identify a confidential source whose identity was sought by Price’s attorney, Steven Heninger of Birmingham, Ala. The court said the law protected newspapers and broadcast news reports, but not magazines.
McCabe declined comment on whether the magazine or Yaeger had turned over the names of sources used in the story.
In a phone interview Monday, Heninger said Lori “Destiny” Boudreaux, a dancer at the Pensacola bar where Price was drinking, gave a sworn affidavit saying she was Yaeger’s confidential source.
Heninger said her account to the magazine was based on hearsay and not direct knowledge of what happened in Price’s hotel room.
“She was never in the room. No sex. She merely told Yeager there were two people there. That’s all they had,” he said.
Heninger issued the following statement through Price: “We have won every legal battle at every corner. We think we have vindicated his name.”