Derek Dooley and the Tennessee football program have been heavily scrutinized following their decision not to release true freshman receiver DeAnthony Arnett to a BCS school.
The former four-star recruit is seeking a transfer to either Michigan or Michigan State in order to be closer to his sick father in his hometown of Saginaw, Mich., according to an email he sent to GoVolsXtra.
Tennessee has announced that they will release his scholarship to a MAC school such as Central Michigan or Eastern Michigan, but they will not release him to powerhouses Michigan or Michigan State.
The school has a policy of not releasing scholarship players to teams that they play or recruit against, which is what they are citing for their stance on Arnett. While the Vols won't cross paths with the Spartans or Wolverines on the gridiron in the near future, they recruit against each other constantly.
In the short time since this news has gone public, Dooley has been deemed the tyrannical power that is controlling the helpless Arnett who is trying to be there for his family.
But this decision isn't about recruiting, or even about Arnett. Tennessee has to protect themselves as an institution. They can't make it look like it's alright to come take a chance at playing for UT, then back out to find a better team to join if the first season doesn't go as planned.
I'm not saying that Arnett is giving false information about his father's health problems, because he seems like a character guy, but giving Arnett the green light to play immediately at a superior program could start a chain reaction of transfers among UT's elite players who may feel like a change of scenery.
Thoughts and prayers go out to Arnett's family, and he's well beyond his years to be able to put his family above football. But he's not even a year removed from signing with the Vols and, regardless of his personal situation, he should have to honor his initial decision by sitting out a year or playing a season in junior college just like anyone else.
Unfortunately for Dooley, the PR damage has been done. This whole fiasco will continue to be exploited by mainstream media as a heartless act by a struggling athletics program, potentially affecting recruiting and even the locker room.
Tennessee's athletic department has made countless careless decisions over the last five years to put them in the situation they're currently in with back-to-back losing seasons. Dooley and the Vols may suffer publicly from this fallout, but it finally looks like decisions are being made in the school's best interest.