PR is now driving the DeAnthony Arnett bus
Tennessee’s best wide receiver not named Justin Hunter or Da’Rick Rogers wants out of Knoxville. DeAnthony Arnett, the Saginaw, Michigan native who just finished his freshman season with the Vols, is petitioning the court of public opinion to be released from his scholarship so that he can play in his native state of Michigan. Among other outlets, Mr. Arnett chose GoBlueWolverine the Magazine to write his public petition. His penned plea finished with the following…
Therefore as a student athlete I feel coach Dooley is trying to hinder my success by not allowing me to compete at a BCS level and neglecting the fact my father is severely ill.
That’s called drawing a line in the sand of a public beach, regardless of what’s really going on (and we don’t know, by the way). Arnett is painting a picture of a world where he has no choices. He does. But some come with consequences, as do all choices in life. And, UT is currently putting restrictions on where the Vols are willing to allow him to go. It is a no go to Michigan or Michigan State, supposedly because these are “schools we either play or recruit against” as stated by an official UT statement. The three MAC schools — Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Western Michigan — are therefore by default on the approved list.
According to Patrick Brown of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, if Arnett is not granted a release, or chooses to attend a school to which Tennessee will not release him (i.e., Wolverines or Spartans), he would be penalized for violating the National Letter of Intent he signed in February – he would incur sitting out a year and losing a year of eligibility. But if he agreed to go to a school to which he’d been released (i.e., the three MAC schools), he could go there on scholarship immediately and continue his career after sitting out a required year, but play immediately if granted a hardship waiver from the NCAA.
An additional thought here is the fact that Arnett has spent less than a year with the Vols — he signed his Letter of Intent in early February — which means it may be in his best interests to stay with Tennessee through spring practice before transferring, because if he left prior to spending a full year with the Vols, his appeal for a waiver that would allow him to play immediately at a new school, instead of sitting out a transfer year, might be denied.
So let’s put this in simple terms. Arnett, for whatever reason, wants to live near his home and play big time college football in his home state. Giving Arnett the benefit of the doubt, this is only about his father who is ailing. Reasonable speculation might include the fact that Charlie Baggett was Arnett’s primary recruiter but retired after the end of this past season, adding motive to the stated position. But casting that aside, as well as the fact that Arnett does have reasonable solutions to his dilemma, Dooley is losing in the court that he has been dragged into.
Tennessee football and its head coach don’t need to be ridiculed any more that they already have been. Dooley is being made out to be the bad guy here and there will be no turning around the DeAnthony Arnett public relations bus by sticking to policy. The more Dooley resists Arnett’s publically proclaimed desires, and the reasons for them, the deeper Dooley digs his hole of self-immolation. This is a story that shouldn’t be a story — one that has been turned into an opportunity to slam Dooley, the football program, and the image of the university, regardless of the facts and related nuances.
Derek Dooley and the university need to grant Arnett his unconditional release, with a conciliatory public statement. Otherwise, Tennessee is going to lose a lot more than a freshman wide receiver from Saginaw, Michigan.