Friday, December 30, 2011

#FreeArnett

The bigger things get, the easier it is to sweep stuff under the rug. When it comes to college football, I sometimes forget exactly who's providing such an entertaining product: 18-22 year old young men, 16 or 17 when it comes to recruiting. For us, they are coming of age in front of our eyes on the TV screen or on Internet boards but for them, they are real people with real lives and real problems. I was reminded of this yesterday when Vols head coach Derek Dooley denied WR DeAnthony Arnett the option to transfer to Michigan or Michigan State, restricting him only to MAC schools.

To provide some backdrop, Arnett chose Tennessee over Michigan and Michigan State last year and appeared in all 12 games for the Vols this season, catching 24 passes for 242 yards and 2 TDs as a true freshman. Recently, Arnett's father suffered 2 heart attacks and underwent dialysis. Given the fact that his father's health is quickly deteriorating and his family needs him, Arnett has responsibly and reasonably requested a transfer. Arnett would like to play for either Michigan or Michigan State so he can continue advancing his athletic career on a high level while, you know, being a great son and taking care of his family. In his full statement to Scout, he explains that Coach Dooley denied him the right to transfer to any school Tennessee either plays or recruits against. Look at what Arnett writes at the end: "I don't know what's next. My family can't afford to pay for school, but my father's poor health isn't a good enough excuse for me to attend a BCS close to home."

Derek Dooley, you are a dick.

Out of either bitterness or unfounded principle, Dooley is basically saying that Tennessee football, in all its 5-7 (1-7 SEC) glory, is bigger than this kid's personal life. He's saying that it's worth sticking it to Arnett on the offchance Tenneesee ever plays Michigan or Michigan State in the near future. News flash Dooley: the Vols will not be in a bowl game near Michigan's (or Sparty's for that matter) caliber--at least not while you're coaching there. Furthermore, as Alex Cook of MaizeNBrew and Jeff Contizano of The Wolverine Blog pointed out on Twitter, the Michigan high school coaches are a tight group and they'll certainly remember this when Dooley ever steps foot in that state. Good luck trying to recruit there. Dooley's actually probably doing more harm than good if his policy is not to allow transfers to schools Tennessee recruits against. What's the benefit in doing this?


And this isn't even about me wanting Arnett to come to Michigan either. Obviously, I've followed this story closer because it pertains to the Wolverines but I'd be just as happy (just not ecstatic) to see Arnett, a Saginaw native, go to Sparty if that's where he chooses is best for him and his family. So if there's anything State and Michigan fans can agree upon, it's that this kid needs to come home. Arnett has done nothing wrong. In fact, he's transferring for all the right reasons, not just changing his mind randomly. And he's being punished for it. 

What's worse is that Dooley's decision, with the assumed support of the athletic department and University president given their silence on the issue, also represents the height of hypocrisy. The Vols benefited from a similar situation just a few years ago. In 2007, hoops star Tyler Smith was granted a full release by Iowa so he could be closer to his family since his father was battling cancer. Smith, who grew up a Vols fan, also requested and received a waiver from the NCAA not to sit out a season due to "extenuating family circumstances." Iowa did what was right for the student-athlete; Bruce Pearl and Tennessee happily took him in. 

The conditional release of Arnett is the latest example and reminder that these kids have life to deal with in addition to football. If the NCAA, University of Tennessee or anybody with a soul has a say in this matter, they should step in and do what's right. #FreeArnett is trending a little on Twitter; I'd encourage you to check out some of the links/posts on this issue. Dooley's decision will likely stick but it certainly won't be forgotten. Here's more reason to hate him and Tennessee. And every reason to root for Arnett no matter where he lands. 

1 comment:

  1. An update on the situation here: http://www.mlive.com/sports/saginaw/index.ssf/2011/12/deanthony_arnetts_family_clari.html

    Arnett says there's no scenario in which he returns to UT. Says he'll take online UT courses to complete his one year requirement associated with his NLI. The article also adds Notre Dame to the list of preferred schools (with the previously mentioned U-M and MSU).

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