KNOXVILLE - Receiver DeAnthony Arnett is seeking a transfer from Tennessee, but the freshman's process of moving closer to his sick father in Michigan is complex.
In a statement emailed to multiple media outlets Thursday, Arnett explained his reasons for seeking a release from his UT scholarship. Volunteers coach Derek Dooley, however, has told Arnett there are some limitations on where he can continue his college career.
"We're granting a release to where he can be near his family, play Division I football and get a quality education," UT associate athletic director for communication Jimmy Stanton told the Times Free Press on Thursday. "We have a long-standing policy of not releasing student-athletes to schools that we play or recruit against."
In his statement, Arnett expressed his desire for a release to any in-state Bowl Subdivision School, including Michigan and Michigan State, two schools that were finalists for the Saginaw High School star. Arnett wrote that his father, William, has had two heart attacks and undergone dialysis. He posted on his Twitter account Thursday a picture of his father with a small tube inserted into his chest.
"Yes I want to play football but I NEED to be here for my dad and with my family," Arnett wrote.
"Coach Dooley, myself, or anybody doesn't know what the future holds for my father," he continued, "and I feel that I represented the University of Tennessee the best way I can on and off the field. I feel I have earned the right to be released [unconditionally] to all schools in Michigan, especially with the University of Tennessee not scheduling any program from the state of Michigan on their current future schedules."
The 6-foot, 165-pound Arnett was one of the highest-rated recruits UT signed in its 2011 class, and he had one of the best seasons ever for a true freshman Vols receiver. His 24 catches tied for second-most among true freshmen in school history, and his 242 yards are sixth-most.
He scored two touchdowns in the win against Buffalo in September.
Receivers coach Charlie Baggett was Arnett's primary recruiter but retired after the season.
Mid-American Conference schools Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and Western Michigan are the other three FBS schools in Arnett's home state. Central Michigan is the closest at a little more than 50 miles from Saginaw, but both Michigan State and Michigan are within 90 miles.
"As a student-athlete, I feel Coach Dooley is trying to hinder my success by not allowing me to compete at a [BCS] level!" Arnett wrote.
The Vols have neither the Spartans nor Wolverines on any future schedules, but UT does have a commitment for its 2012 recruiting class from Flint defensive tackle Danny O'Brien, who was heavily recruited by Michigan.
If Arnett is not granted a release or chooses to attend a school to which UT will not release him, he would be penalized for violating the National Letter of Intent he signed in February. According to the NLI website, the student-athlete agrees to attend a school full time for one academic year, and the school agrees to provide financial aid for the same duration. Violating that agreement would incur sitting out one year and losing a year of eligibility.
Should Arnett choose a school to which he'd be released, he could attend that school on scholarship immediately and continue his career after sitting out a required year. He could be granted a hardship waiver from the NCAA as well, which would make him eligible to play immediately instead of sitting out the required year.
The Vols have four receivers currently committed for its 2012 class: Drae Bowles (Jackson, Tenn.), Jason Croom (Norcross, Ga.), Keithon Redding (Decatur, Ga.) and Alton Howard (Orlando, Fla.). Howard, who fits a similar slot-receiver mold as Arnett, is enrolling next month. Junior college receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and Quinshad Davis (Gaffney, S.C.) are UT's top two remaining receiver targets.
"Everybody please pray for me and my family as we go through this tough situation!" Arnett wrote on his Twitter account. "It's very stressful for me!"