University of Tennessee Athletics Department Or Knoxville Penal Colony?

Joel BarkerSenior Writer IJanuary 1, 2010

LAWRENCE, KANSAS - JANUARY 3:  Tyler Smith #1 of the Tennessee Volunteers drives downcourt during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks on January 3, 2009 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it does.

Barely two months after three Tennessee football players were arrested for attempted armed robbery, four basketball players have been arrested and jailed for possession of marijuana and illegal firearms.

The unfortunate difference between the two cases is that the three football players were freshmen—guys one could reasonably expect to make an egregious error in judgement. The four basketball players, on the other hand, were all upperclassmen.

The four? Tyler Smith—the Vols best player for the past two season, Cameron Tatum—a very important sixth man and occasional starter, Brian Williams—Tennessee's main big man backup, and Melvin Goins—a first year JUCO transfer point guard.

One of the firearms found had a scratched-out serial number, which is a whole other felony charge aside from just possessing a weapon without a permit. The four were also charged with possessing the other weapon without a permit.

On top of all this, there was a strong smell of marijuana and an open container of alcohol in the vehicle.

How did all of this begin?

The four were originally pulled over for speeding.

All of this begs the question, what the heck is going on at the University of Tennessee?

How can these things continue to happen to this proud athletic program?

Is the problem in recruiting? I doubt it. Last time I checked, every school in America recruits from the same pool of players and assume virtually identical risk with the young men they allow into their programs.

Is the problem coaching and discipline? Bruce Pearl is a great disciplinarian and has been for a long time. He's also a great coach who doesn't allow such shenanigans to go on under his watch.

Is there an atmosphere at Tennessee that allows their student-athletes to think they are above the law? I honestly do not know. But at this point, it would appear that if the other two reasons aren't valid, this is just as good of an excuse as any.

It's amazing the importance that fans of SEC programs, or any national program for that matter, place on collegiate athletics.

I have followed Tennessee athletics for most of my life and have always looked up to coaches and players. But to the point of idol worship? Never.

We line up for miles outside of Neyland Stadium to slap hands with 100 18-22 year old's. We cheer like mad for them when they do great and we boo them mercilessly when they screw up.

We place these kids on pedestals and they know it.

In my mind, that can't help but foster an attitude of egotism and a mentality that they are "above-everything."

Why else would four very talented, often-used basketball players get into a car with two illegal weapons, measurable amounts of pot, and an open container of alcohol?

If there's no prevailing attitude involved, why would an NBA prospect (Tyler Smith) be anywhere near this sort of thing?

Obviously there are more questions than answers at this point. 

Hopefully we'll learn some answers sometime in the near future.