Bryce Brown has remained conspicuously silent in the media since he went AWOL at the start of spring practice in March. But it will come as no surprise to anyone who's followed Brown's odyssey over the last year from melodramatic blue-chip recruiting coup to freshman afterthought at Tennessee that he's wanted out of Knoxville for months – at least since April, according to his father, Arthur, who told ESPN's Joe Schad today that he's repeatedly, unsuccessfully asked UT coach Derek Dooley to release his son from his scholarship since Bryce left the team. Those requests began long before Bryce reportedly sent Dooley a much-publicized text message requesting a release after leaving Tennessee last weekend.
As of Tuesday, a Tennessee spokesman said that request had come without a face-to-face meeting with Dooley, who seemed to confirm to the Knoxville News-Sentinel that he hadn't talked with the younger Brown at all throughout the saga: "The reason it has continued on (since the spring) is because Bryce has not come to me, looked me in the eye and said 'I want a release to so-and-so school.' At some point, that's got to happen." Arthur Brown told Schad, however, that there was a meeting between Dooley and Bryce last Saturday, before Bryce returned home to Kansas, which Dooley mysteriously asked the family to keep under wraps. And it's been clear from the beginning that the family wants Bryce to transfer to Kansas State to join his brother, Arthur Jr., another former five-star recruit who made a bee-line for KSU in January after two disappointing seasons in Miami.
But Tennessee, Schad writes, isn't budging:
...Vols coach Derek Dooley said Friday that he will not release Brown from his scholarship.
"I have a lot of respect for Bryce as a person and a player," Dooley said. "This is a professional decision, not a personal one."
Dooley said he makes decisions on who to release based on three criteria: what was the player's personal investment into the program; what harm the player's departure would cause the program; and how the player handled the situation as a person.
"I have an obligation to protect the program," said Dooley, who has released some players and declined to release others since taking over the Vols. "Bryce can still go to Kansas State but I'm not releasing him."
Tennessee's deceptive comments about the meeting last weekend are frankly baffling, unless their goal was specifically to paint Brown as a petulant flake. (My post on Brown's cold-shoulder exit on Wednesday, based on the apparently false statements and implications by Dooley and the UT spokesman that there had been no meeting, collected 750 comments, most of them criticizing or outright insulting Brown for skipping town. The Knoxville News-Sentinel story that post quoted drew almost 300 comments in the same vein.) Dooley's insistence on denying Brown's transfer also seems petty, even moreso than when he required offensive lineman Aaron Douglas to transfer at least an eight-hour drive from Knoxville before he'd grant Douglas' release earlier this year. Kansas State and Tennessee aren't scheduled to play one another over the next three years. The elder Brown said he offered this week to fly Bryce back to Knoxville for another face-to-face meeting with Dooley, but the coach texted back "No need to come back out here." (Dooley confirmed the text to Schad.) If Dooley's waiting for a face-to-face request to clear this up, as he said earlier in the week, he doesn't seem to be in any hurry to facilitate it.
On the other hand, between the extended recruiting drama, the relationship with sketchy "mentor" Brian Butler, the immediate recruiting probe upon arriving on campus, the uninspiring debut on the field and now the protracted, unexplained exit from the team, Brown hasn't done much up to now to counter his flaky reputation. His status has been a constant distraction and – for Dooley, anyway – frustration. And just like his recruitment last year, it's painting everyone in an ugly light.
At this rate, if ever gets on a field again, this kid better be as good as advertised for whoever's willing to take him in.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.