Reggie White says when he asked his alma mater to retire his jersey six years ago, University of Tennessee athletic director Doug Dickey told him he'd have to make a donation first.
"Doug Dickey's exact words were, 'We can negotiate.' And I sat down with him days after and told him I was not going to give money to the university for him to do the right thing," White said.
Dickey denied ever talking to the Green Bay Packers defensive end about retiring his No. 92 collegiate jersey, although others said the discussion did take place.
"I don't believe I ever had a conversation with Reggie White regarding retiring his jersey," Dickey said. "I don't remember any conversation about retiring his jersey or making contributions."
White, who discussed the flap after The AP obtained details from a source in Green Bay, said his agent, Jimmy Sexton, and Mitch Barnhart, former senior associate AD, also were present during the 1992 conversation at the athletic cafeteria on the Knoxville campus.
Sexton reluctantly confirmed that retiring White's jersey in exchange for a donation was discussed at that time: "I did hear that. I can't tell you, did Doug mean it tongue-in-cheek? Did he mean it seriously? I don't know."
Barnhart, now athletic director at Oregon State, said the conversation included proposals from both sides to have White's jersey retired -- an honor nobody received at Tennessee until Peyton Manning did this spring -- and for White o give a gift to the school.
"I think that the chicken or the egg theory, which came first, if you do this, will you do that? I think quite honestly, those conversations were going both ways pretty good," said Barnhart, who was in charge of athletic department fundraising at UT.
"But for anybody to point the finger and say Doug Dickey was trying to negotiate a gift out of Reggie to get his jersey hung, I don't remember it that way," Barnhart added. "There were conversations about gifting. There were conversations about jerseys being retired. All that was thrown out on the table by both parties."
None of the three who confirmed the lunch meeting could recall an exact figure for a donation being discussed.
White said he would have gladly given a donation to the university had his jersey been retired with no strings attached, "but I wasn't going to buy what I know I deserved."
"And I would not allow the university to honor me now," White said. ``It wouldn't be sincere."
Sexton's colleague, Kyle Rote Jr., said he relayed White's sentiments to Dickey when Manning's jersey was retired at Tennessee's spring scrimmage.
Although three numbers of players killed in World War II are retired at UT, Manning's jersey was the first to be retired.
White insisted he didn't begrudge Manning, but said he and NFL Hall of Famer Doug Atkins, who played for Tennessee from 1950-52, deserved the honor before the Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback.
"You've got two of the greatest players to come out of the university and you have a kid who gets honored before they do," White said.
Dickey said it was appropriate to honor Manning so soon.
"Peyton Manning won more national honors during his college career than any player in the history of the University of Tennessee," Dickey said. "We had a separate moment with him because of all the honors and recognition that came to the university as a result of his college performance."
Dickey said he hoped to one day honor White for his NFL achievements.
"I'm saddened Reggie would make those comments, because nobody has tried to solicit money from Reggie for a jersey," Dickey said. "We just have had no retirement policy of jerseys until we did Peyton's and we still do not have any beyond that."
The most honored defensive end in NFL history, White, who owns the Vols' career record with 32 sacks from 1980-83, said he didn't make a fuss back in April because he didn't want to spoil Manning's moment.
"I didn't want to seem bitter, because I'm not. I'm disappointed," White said. "If I was bitter, I'd be doing all I could to make them retire my jersey."
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