The University of Tennessee's conditional release of DeAnthony Arnett has many football fans and pundits scratching their heads. Derek Dooley says Arnett can be released from his scholarship at the University of Tennessee, but he cannot go suit up for the Michigan Wolverines or Michigan State Spartans.
I have read several solid pieces on this topic this week, most notably pieces written by Ryan Wooden of Knox Vegas Vols and Clay Travis of Outkick The Coverage. If you have not read these articles, I would suggest doing so before reading this post further. Wooden and Travis hit on the details, and I am not going to fully rehash.
Done? Ok, now proceed.
This whole situation reminds me (and many other UT fans) of Tyler Smith's situation at Iowa. Most Volunteer fans know that the Tennessee native was set to play basketball for the University of Tennessee straight out of Hargrave Military Academy. However, a coaching change from Buzz Peterson to Bruce Pearl nixed those plans, and Smith wound up an Iowa Hawkeye. At the end of Smith's Freshman season ('06-'07), he was in the exact same situation as Arnett - an ailing father back home many miles away from his University. Like Arnett, Smith wanted to come home to be closer to his dad. Based on the circumstances, the University of Iowa granted a release that allowed Smith to "come home" to a BCS conference and play for the Vols. If Iowa would've granted his release to only the OVC or Sun Belt, it would have forced Smith to go to a school such as the University of Tennessee at Martin, Tennessee State University or Middle Tennessee State University. This would've enraged Volunteer fans and rightfully so. Tyler Smith was an SEC/Big 10 type talent on the hardwood just like DeAnthony Arnett is an SEC/Big 10 type talent on the gridiron. Forcing Arnett to play at a lower level of competition is unfair to both his collegiate career and his eventual dreams of playing on Sundays. There are plenty of MAC players in the NFL, but Michigan and Michigan State are far better platforms to reach from when reaching for the NFL dream. Dooley is not only compromising Arnett's next three years of collegiate eligibility, he's compromising his future earnings potential as a possible NFL draft pick.
Now I'm not saying Dooley should allow all out of state kids to freely leave without just cause. Otherwise, half the team probably would have left after the 1-7 SEC mark posted by this year's team. However, when a kid is far away from home and has a truly justifiable reason to want to transfer to a non-SEC school nearer to his family, I have no problem with it whatsoever, and neither should Dooley in my opinion. For anyone who has either had a very ill father or even lost him, there's a realization you only have one dad, and the desire to take advantage of as many father/son moments as possible is a noble desire.
In the Vols' illustrious football history, they have squared off vs. Michigan one time ('01 Bowl Game that UT won 45-17). Per utsports.com, the Vols have never faced Michigan State. Therefore, it's not as if Arnett wants to go to Florida or Vanderbilt or any other team the Vols play every year.
As Wooden mentioned in his piece, maybe there's an aspect of this story we are all unaware of, but as it stands in my eyes, this will be a negative mark for Dooley which will be exploited by rival schools on the recruiting trail. Let's just all hope that Arnett's father gets over his health woes and can watch his son play college football whether as a big fish in a small pond (MAC school) or in the Big Ten where he obviously belongs.