About two weeks ago, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray was involved in an incident in which he and his roommate were caught tossing beer bottles and golf balls onto a car, doing damage to the vehicle. Bray and his roommate were spotted by another person living in their apartment complex. That person had her own windshield busted out the next day — quite a coincidence — but no one saw who was involved in that act of vandalism.
Bray told the first vandalism victim — the one who had his name — that he would make restitution for damage. For that reason, no charges were pressed. Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said at the time that he took the matter “seriously,” but then joked at a speaking engagement about his quarterback’s accuracy, saying he missed a trash can.
Dooley’s ha-ha reaction can be viewed through a brand new lens today as The Knoxville News Sentinel is reporting that Bray is slated to appear in a General Sessions Court setting because on July 4th, he and a woman passenger were “hot dogging” on a Jet Ski on Tellico Lake, not far from Knoxville. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer Dewayne Williams said that the “hot dogging” was “almost like playing chicken” with another Jet Ski. That other Jet Ski tipped over and its occupants went into the water… at which point Bray then zipped by “spraying them with water.” The officer said, “he was almost on top of them.” Williams added: “This all happened directly in front of me. That’s what I couldn’t believe.”
The charges against Bray include a Class A misdemeanor for reckless operation of a personal watercraft and a Class C misdemeanor for failure to have a boating education certificate.
We’ll pause here for Vol die-hards to say, “Aw, this isn’t any bigger deal than the busted windshield.”
And now we’ll get on to our points:
1. Bray has been projected by many as being a potential first-round NFL draft pick. But Bray continues to make dumb decisions on and off the field. From a throat slash gesture during his freshman year that was later used in a “here’s what we call taunting” NCAA explainer video to the car incident to the Jet Ski incident to a WNML-AM/FM report (a Knoxville radio station) that Bray recently started a scuffle in Tennessee’s just-off-campus bar district, Bray is in danger of losing millions of dollars. Perhaps he should call Ryan Mallett and ask him if “reputation” can influence the decisions of NFL general managers.
2. The fact that the July 4th issue happened before Dooley blew off the vandalism issue tells us either a) he didn’t know about the Jet Ski incident or b) he doesn’t give a big hoot what his star athletes do in their spare time. In fact, after the July 4th charges, Dooley told the throng at SEC Media Days that his quarterback had matured and made “lifestyle changes.” Then the next week that same quarterback admitted to vandalizing a car. Dooley handed out no suspension, just a quip.
3. Looking the other way for stars seems to be a habit for Dooley. One that — according to sources inside the UT football program — wasn’t appreciated by some of the head coach’s ex-assistants. As noted, Bray has had maturity issues in the past. Ditto star receiver Da’Rick Rogers who’s been arrested, yelled at a coach, tweeted about transferring, and skipped out on some workouts since arriving in Knoxville. Star safety Janzen Jackson got umpteen chances from Dooley before he finally failed one too many drug tests and the school — not the coach — gave him the boot. If there’s a truth in college athletics it’s this: The better the player, the more chances he’ll get. Dooley is fast becoming the poster child for that statement.
4. And that’s bad news for the coach as he enters a make-or-break season. Tennessee receiver Justin Hunter would be considered the best player on the Volunteer team were he not coming off a serious knee injury. As it stands, UT’s two best, proven, healthy players are Bray and Rogers who are more often a Distracting Duo than a Dynamic Duo. With his job on the line, Dooley probably feels he can’t afford to sit either of his two top players. But by continuing to allow them to make poor decisions and bring bad publicity to his team with no outward sign of any consequences, he’s only inviting them to continue to test him (and apparently the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, too).
5. Oh, Bray didn’t get arrested for holding up someone outside a convenience store — as a few Lane Kiffin recruits once did. He was “hot dogging” on a Jet Ski and tossing a few beer bottles at a car. Boys will be boys. But based on the decisions that this boy makes, it’s looking more and more like he might cost Dooley his job rather than save it. Would you trust him to get through a full football season without another incident popping up?
People had a lot of laughs at Steve Spurrier when he suspended Stephen Garcia five times (with many of those coming after “boys will be boys” type events). Well, at least Spurrier did suspend him.
Update: Bray reaches agreement in court - avoids a guilty plea.