For the past couple of weeks, the University of Tennessee athletic department has been denying reports from WVLZ-AM and nixing questions asked by WNML-AM/FM in Knoxville regarding Volunteer tight end Cameron Clear. Word had leaked out that Clear had been caught stealing property from his teammates and other athletes. A UT spokesperson even told at least one reporter that Derek Dooley was quite unhappy that such claims would ever be made in public.
Well, fast forward to yesterday when Clear was indeed arrested on a felony theft charge. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports the sophomore was still in jail this morning needing $2,500 bond to get out. (Charged with theft of more than $1,000, too bad he couldn’t barter his way out.)
Clear was caught by police after using the stolen Mac laptop of Tennessee baseball player Brandon Zajac. There have been reports that Vol football players have found Clear in possession of their belongings, too.
The same UT spokesman who’d been denying that Clear had stolen anything from his teammates had this to say yesterday: “We are aware of an incident involving Cameron and are in the process of gathering the facts.”
Clear caught only one pass last year but he was a 4-star signee in Tennessee’s class of 2011.
Dooley was in Atlanta last night speaking to a Vol booster club.
The news on Clear certainly shines new light on Dooley’s decision to sign 4-star defensive back Deion Bonner this past February. Bonner, you might recall, was one of three recruits arrested during a 2010 recruiting trip in Athens for stealing iPods and iPhones out of Georgia’s locker room.
After signing Bonner, Dooley told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“We do a lot of diligence when we recruit, and we certainly recognize that there are no perfect players and we all make mistakes as young people…
“He kept a great attitude and a great outlook, and I saw someone who made a bad mistake and appears willing to learn from it and to let it make him a better person. So we were willing to take a chance on Deion. Part of character is not saying ‘I only want perfect people.’ We’re all flawed and we all make mistakes. The question is: Do you have the character to learn from it and get it right?”
Readers of this site know that yours truly is big on second and third and fourth chances (in life, if not on sports teams). And here’s hoping Clear is either cleared of these charges or turns his life around as a result of them.
That said, what does it say about the character of UT’s football coach and his spokespeople when they choose to mislead the press — and therefore their own fanbase — when confronted with questions about things they know to be true?
An on a sidenote to Dooley: If Clear returns to Tennessee’s team, it might be best if he and Bonner not room together.