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Former UT RB Brown Says He Never Fit In; Dooley Doesn’t Care

When Bryce Brown signed with Tennessee in February of 2009, he was the nation’s top-ranked tailback.  He was the surprise jewel of Lane Kiffin’s first recruiting class.

A year and a half later, Brown is back in Kansas trying to get out of his UT scholarship and hoping to play with his brother at Kansas State.  He now represents all of the dashed hopes of Kiffin’s brief time in Knoxville.

Brown’s attorney turned over a letter to UT officials yesterday in which the running back “cited depression, health concerns for his family and being uncomfortable with some off-field issues last season” as the primary reasons he wanted/needed to leave Knoxville.

“Upon arriving in Knoxville, I immediately felt like I was too far away from home,” Brown wrote.  “I would constantly call home to talk to my family, who thought I would overcome my homesickness once more players and students arrived on campus.

“Once other football players did arrive on campus, I quickly realized that I did not fit in with the other players in the football program.  My teammates were involved in a range of activities that I was not comfortable being around.”

Brown simply wants out of his scholarship so his family will not have to pay tuition at Kansas State as he sits out his transfer year.  But Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is determined — apparently — to punish Brown and his family.

“As with other players who have asked for a release, I went through the same process with the same criteria with Bryce,” Dooley said in July.  “There are the three key factors — what their personal investment into the program was, did they have their heart into it and did they give it a good, fair shot.  Number two, the harm that their departure creates for the organization.  Number three, how they handle it as a professional.”

All of those criteria would make sense if Dooley had recruited Brown.  But he did not recruit Brown.  He inherited Brown.  More to the point, Brown inherited Dooley.  So Dooley’s decision to force the Brown family to pay for their son’s college tuition at another institution is simply punitive — to use a legal term that the lawyer-turned-coach might understand.

While Dooley is clearly trying to send a warning to his players — “Don’t think about leaving here” — there’s a chance his actions could serve as a different kind of warning to recruits: “Don’t sign to play with this guy or else he’ll be putting his ‘organization’ ahead of your personal well-being.”


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