Derek Dooley is developing quite the reputation for being a stickler. Maybe that’s just the lawyer in him. But Tennessee’s head coach is now — for the third time — putting his foot down when it comes to a player looking to transfer.
Yesterday, freshman receiver DeAnthony Arnett let it be known that he wants to return to his home state of Michigan to be closer to his father, whose poor health has worsened in recent months.
Soon after, UT announced that Dooley would not allow Arnett to have a free pass out of town. According to an email the player sent to the media, Michigan and Michigan State are off limits to him:
“If I wanted to attend The University of Michigan and Michigan State University then I would have to pay for school instead of be on the Scholorship. I dont know whats next my family cant afford to pay for school and my father health reason isnt good enough excuse for me to attend a BCS school close to home.”
Sidenote — It’s ridiculous what Twitter and texting are doing to the English language. Do kids even know what an apostrophe is anymore?
Back to the topic, Dooley appears A-OK with Arnett heading to the Mid-American Conference, but he doesn’t want him going to a football power. Here’s a UT spokesperson’s take on the situation:
“We’re not denying him a release to be near his family, get a good education and play Division I football at the same time, but we do have a policy of not releasing players to schools we either play or recruit against.”
Outside of bowl games — and Dooley didn’t have to worry about that one this year — the Vols don’t meet up with the Wolverines and Spartans often. In fact, in more than a century of football, UT has played Michigan once and State never. And it’s not as if Tennessee squares off with great regularity against those schools on the recruiting trail, either.
Admittedly, no one can be sure if Arnett is seeking a transfer just because he wants to be near his father. Rumors suggest he was tight with departed receivers coach Charlie Baggett. So maybe he wants out because he’s disgruntled. And it’s also possible that UT coaches feel Michigan or MSU might have tampered with the player. Who knows?
But for Dooley, this is a PR battle he doesn’t need to fight right now. He’s already played hardball with two players who wanted to transfer when he took over — Lane Kiffin-signee Bryce Brown and Phillip Fulmer-signee Aaron Douglas both met major resistance in their attempts to leave Knoxville. Now Arnett is getting the same treatment and not everyone on the Tennessee messageboards is thrilled about it.
Nick Saban — who Dooley served under — and Les Miles can get away with being tough guys in these types of matters because they win. Dooley hasn’t. So he’s not getting universal support in his decision to block a player whose father is sick from playing at a big school (which could aid Arnett’s professional aspirations).
We view it as another public relations misstep for a coach who lost at Kentucky to close the season and then decided to go into silent mode. Many ornery Vol fans have voiced their displeasure with their coach’s disappearance since November.
Dooley should be worried about winning with the guys he’s got. If a kid wants to transfer because he’s homesick or his playing time isn’t what he’d hoped, fine, he should hold onto him. But this one looks bad. And UT fans are split over their coach’s move.
That’s not what Dooley needs right now. Because if he doesn’t start winning in 2012, he might spend the next few years of his career in the MAC right along with Arnett.