Shumaker has been transported by the UT plane nine times to Birmingham, and he has been aboard it a dozen times as it took off from that city. On March 9, the plane picked up Shumaker and University of Alabama at Birmingham President Carol Garrison. It took them to Little Rock, Ark., for the Southeastern Conference championship women's basketball game, then returned them to Birmingham.
"The plane would have picked me up whether she was on or not," Shumaker said.
Shumaker described their relationship as "unassailable, perfectly proper and appropriate."
"Carol and I are very good personal friends," Shumaker said. "There is nothing to apologize for. We have never tried to conceal the fact that we were together on some occasions."
The president of the University of Tennessee has been asked to reimburse the state for any personal flights aboard state aircraft. Gov. Phil Bredesen said Wednesday that UT President John W. Shumaker "needs to put to bed" questions raised about his use of state planes.
The governor asked Dr. Shumaker to examine his flights, and "if some are questionable, then you get paid a lot of money, write a check for it." The criteria to be used in making the evaluation is whether the trips were for state or university business, he said. UT officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Facing questions about his use of the University of Tennessee plane and other resources, UT President John Shumaker said Wednesday he will reimburse the university $24,600 for 25 questionable flights, eliminate use of his corporate credit card and file more frequent expense reports.
Earlier this month, Shumaker asked the state comptroller to review use of UT's airplane because of state lawmaker concerns following an analysis of flight records during the last 22 months.
The most questionable flights were ones to Louisville, where Shumaker was the former president of the University of Louisville, and Birmingham, Ala., where former Louisville colleague Carol Garrison is president of the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Gov. Phil Bredesen said on Friday that UT President John W. Shumaker's use of the university's airplane would not get a "Good Housekeeping seal of approval."
Gov. Bredesen said University of Tennessee officials should idle the plane and refocus on education priorities.
"I think it would probably be good for them to park that baby for a while and get the focus back on what they need to be doing," Gov. Bredesen said.
Shumaker joked Friday to alumni that "it was as though Birmingham was the center of sin in the Southeast." His former Louisville colleague Carol Garrison is president of the University of Alabama-Birmingham and accompanied him on the UT plane to an Arkansas basketball tournament.