When new Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall took over in Knoxville, he knew he would have to rebuild the Vols' roster quickly. The best players from Cuonzo Martin's last team had graduated or were leaving early for the NBA. Four Martin signees requested their departure papers from UT soon after Martin departed for California. So Tyndall won over quite a few fans when he inked eight players from high schools, prep schools and other colleges in rapid succession.
But now that count is down to seven.
Eric McKnight, a graduate transfer from Florida Gulf Coast has had his waiver to transfer to Tennessee denied by the SEC. As a player who had already transferred from Iowa State to FGCU, the forward needed an NCAA waiver to transfer again. That one he got. But a waiver from the SEC? Uh-uh.
It turns out McKnight's coach at FGCU had said that the player could not have returned to his program due to three violations of team rules. Prior to McKnight's commitment to Tennessee, Joe Dooley had said that the player had only been suspended twice and that he had decided to graduate and turn pro. Then came the coaches flip-flop, though McKnight himself has confirmed that Dooley did tell him he couldn't return to Florida Gulf Coast.
The SEC requires a player to leave his last school in good standing before it will hand out a waiver allowing said student to transfer into the conference. Tennessee appealed on McKnight's behalf, but the appeal was denied.
Tyndall commented via UT press release: "We pursued this issue through the proper protocol, and I respect the process. Although we are disappointed that Eric will not be joining our program, we are focused on moving forward."
Tyndall has said that McKnight's rules violations at FGCU were minor. "It wasn't like he was accused or charged with a felony. It wasn't like he had spent time in prison. And I don't want to make light of what happened, but the bottom line is, I've given many kids second chances in the past."
He won't get that chance with McKnight. And lacking size next season already, losing a 6-9 transfer won't help matters for the Vols.