Staff Photo by Patrick Smith Former McCallie standout and Tennessee quarterback B.J. Coleman looks across the field during a pre-game warm up before their game against Northern Illinois.
KNOXVILLE — Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin released a brief statement to the Times Free Press on Friday implying regret that quarterback B.J. Coleman from Chattanooga opted to leave the program.
Coleman, a McCallie School graduate and two-time Tennessee Mr. Football award winner, told the Times Free Press on Thursday that he didn’t want to leave UT but didn’t see himself “getting a fair shake” to start under center.
“We wish B.J. the best of luck and wished he would have stayed,” Kiffin said. “We think he definitely had improved during our short time with him.”
Coleman on Thursday became the ninth known scholarship player to leave or be dismissed from the program since Kiffin replaced Phillip Fulmer in December.
That’s no small dent, even in a sport allotted as many as 85 full rides. But the effect of those losses isn’t immediately clear, according to UT athletic director Mike Hamilton.
“I think that you have different individuals that may leave after a change for different reasons — some from a discipline perspective, some that just want something different, some that decide they want to transfer,” Hamilton said. “Obviously, you want to have everybody retained and everybody eligible and nobody leaving. That’s the best-case scenario ... but I think the reality of that is it’s unrealistic that you wouldn’t have any turnover when you’ve got a change in a sport with the squad size like football’s.”
Some of the departures involved issues over potential playing time. Others, like safety Demetrice Morley’s, centered around discipline issues. Others were more complex, stemming from Kiffin’s questions about some players’ ability or desire (or both) to help his program.
“We have real high standards for what we want our players to do,” Kiffin said during Tuesday night’s Big Orange Caravan tour stop at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. “As good as it was, we still wish it was better, but I’m proud of the way they’ve bought in.
“Some have gone by the wayside, but for those left standing, that says a lot about them.”
Hamilton said Friday there was no foolproof method to predicting possible departures during a coaching search in any sport.
“I don’t know that there’s an expectation,” Hamilton said. “We’ve had changes where we haven’t had folks who have left. But with a sport with the squad size of football’s, with a change I’d think it would be a normal occurrence where you’d seen some turnover.
“I don’t think you can put a finger on exactly how many will leave or the reasons for them leaving, but I think that’s always a possibility.”
Rarely do summers pass without additional roster turnover, and one more departure would put the Vols into double digits. That naturally raises eyebrows in the era of stricter NCAA student-athlete academic legislation.
The NCAA’s Academic Progress Report — or “APR” — was designed to evaluate every program’s eligibility retention and graduation figures.
With few exceptions, teams with a four-year average score below 925 on a 1,000-point scale are docked 10 percent of their scholarship allotment. Repeat offender programs such as UT-Chattanooga football have been assessed “historical penalties” such as postseason bans.
UT football seems to have room for error, with its most recent four-year average score of 948 — in the 60th to 70th percentile within its sport. The most recent four-year average for all Division I football programs was 934. Public university Division I programs averaged 925, while Football Bowl Subdivision programs averaged 936.
“We think that based upon where we are now, we’re OK,” Hamilton said regarding the APR. “But obviously, the semester’s not finished yet, so we’ve got to get to exams, and there will be guys that go to summer school and those kinds of things.
“You calculate it every year in September and turn it over to the NCAA. That’s really when we’ll be able to better ascertain what the effect of all this is.”
Kiffin made multiple references this spring to urging departed players to keep attending classes — something he said would benefit the futures of each player and their former teammates.
“There’s a right way to do it, and we certainly hope that happens,” he said after one practice.
B.J. Coleman leaves TennesseeFormer McCallie School quarterback B.J. Coleman told University of Tennessee football coaches Thursday afternoon that he would be transferring out of the program. The redshirt sophomore told the Times Free Press he did not believe he would get a fair opportunity to earn the starting job.