KNOXVILLE — Sophomore tailback Bryce Brown left town Tuesday but didn’t meet with University of Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley, according to multiple sources close to the program.
Brown, who came to UT as the No. 1 prospect in the nation and accumulated 597 yards and four touchdowns a freshman, left the team before spring practice and didn’t participate in voluntary summer workouts. He has been contemplating a return to UT or a transfer closer to his family in Wichita, Kan.
Knoxville radio station WNML reported Tuesday afternoon that Brown canceled that day’s scheduled meeting with Dooley and sent the coach a text message stating his desire to leave the program for good. No one confirmed the text message to the Times Free Press, but several sources indicated the coach and player didn’t meet face-to-face.
Brown is free to leave UT if he chooses, but he’ll need a release from Dooley to go on scholarship while sitting out the NCAA-mandated one-year eligibility delay.
Dooley said last week at SEC media days that he would deal with every scholarship release request on its own merit as it related to the specific circumstance. Speaking specifically about Brown, Dooley has said all summer that he’s prepared his team to play without its leading returning rusher.
“Nothing is personal when it comes to a release,” Dooley said. “It’s a couple of things. It’s the player’s situation. It’s how the player’s handling the situation. It’s how the player’s hurting our organization, because I do have to protect the interest of the organization. All those factors get jumbled in.
“Nowadays, what happens is players — it’s kind of the way the world is now — but all they look at is how it affects them. Well, you have a responsibility to the team, too, and it affects the team when you make decisions at certain times of the year. I think there’s right ways to handle a situation, and there’s right times.
“I don’t think it’s wrong for a player to want to transfer, but I also know that it’s not the right thing to do just transfer every time it gets difficult, because you can’t run from problems. There’s problems everywhere you go, and I think that’s happened in a couple of instances.”
Attempts to reach Brown on Tuesday night were unsuccessful. Dooley hasn’t said whether Brown intends to transfer, and he’s insisted that he and the team would welcome Brown back as long as the player worked hard and wasn’t a distraction.
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