DeAnthony Arnett can move home for his sick dad, but only on Tennessee’s terms
By Graham Watson
After Tennessee's season-ending loss to Kentucky — the Vols' first loss in the series in 26 years, clinching their second consecutive losing season — Derek Dooley's honeymoon in Knoxville is officially over. Barely a month later, the second-year head coach is taking another PR hit for preventing one of his former players from transferring to a Big Ten school to be near his ailing father.
DeAnthony Arnett, a former top-100 prospect from Saginaw, Mich., who arrived as one of the headliners of Dooley's first full recruiting class earlier this year, decided after the season to return to his home state to be closer to his father, who struggles with diabetes and has endured multiple heart attacks and surgeries. Arnett wanted to transfer to Michigan or Michigan State, but Dooley put the kibosh on those plans by restricting Arnett's release to Mid-American Conference schools.
"Coach Dooley, myself or anybody doesn't know what the future holds for my father," Arnett said in an email to ESPN's Joe Schad and other media outlets. "I feel that I represented the University of Tennessee the best way I can on and off the field and I feel I have earned the right to be released unconditional to all schools in Michigan."
But Tennessee doesn't agree. It has no problem releasing Arnett to an FBS school in Michigan — as long as that school is Western Michigan, Central Michigan or Eastern Michigan instead of the Big Ten heavies.
"We're not denying him a release to be near his family, get a good education and play Division 1 football at the same time, but we do have a policy of not releasing players to schools we either play or recruit against," UT said in a statement to the Knoxville News Sentinel. "Where he's from, there are several good D-I schools nearby that would be good options to play football, get a good education and keep him near his family."
Arnett has to honor at least a year of his national letter of intent with the Vols to be eligible for a hardship waiver from the NCAA that would allow him to play right away at another school. Arnett does have three years of eligibility remaining and a redshirt season. If he enrolls at a school Tennessee hasn't released him to attend, he would have to pay his own way for a year, which he says he can't afford.
As of right now, Tennessee isn't scheduled to play Michigan or Michigan State in the foreseeable future, and has no other Michigan natives on its roster. Granted, Michigan State and Michigan do recruit in SEC country, but so does every school in the country, including MAC schools, which have several players from Florida and other Southern states that Tennessee recruits.
So let's call this what it is: Tennessee doesn't want to release Arnett to a school he actually wants to attend because he's leaving after just a few months on campus. And that's petty.
It's similar to the plight of St. Joe's basketball player Todd O'Brien, who asked for his release to attend UAB because it better suited his major. St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli refused the release for no reason other than that fact that he was punishing O'Brien for trying to leave.
It's hard to believe there's any malicious intent here by Arnett. That he's trying to stick it to Tennessee in some way. He's just a young kid who wants to be closer to his father while playing top college football. Perhaps Tennessee sees something different. Perhaps it sees a player who is unhappy with playing time and is using his dad as an excuse to skip to another high-level school without the mandatory year on the bench that comes with most transfers. But if that's the case, why would you want that player on your roster in the first place? Sure you want him to honor his commitment, but at what cost?
And if Arnett really is transferring to be closer to his father, then it shouldn't matter if he lands at a MAC school.
But as this story continues to unfold, the only person who looks bad is Dooley, and he's just supplying more fuel for a seat that's hot enough already.
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Graham Watson is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow her @Yahoo_Graham.
Related: UAB Blazers, Central Michigan Chippewas, Florida Gators, Kentucky Wildcats, Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans, Western Michigan Broncos, Tennessee Volunteers, Comings and Goings, Derek Dooley