Tennessee’s Derek Dooley is about to lose another public relations battle over a transferring student, this time true freshman receiver DeAnthony Arnett.
Arnett, a native of Saginaw, Michigan, picked the Vols over Michigan State and Michigan. He had a great first year for a freshman receiver, catching 24 passes for 242 yards.
Dooley has agreed to release Arnett from his scholarship with the stipulation that he can’t attend either Michigan or Michigan State. Instead Dooley insists that Arnett attend a MAC school. This has displeased the Arnett family, and DeAnthony sent this statement to Scout yesterday.
“The Arnett family for years has been tight. I never knew the conditions for my Father would worsen like this. Two heart attacks and dialysis has made it so I cannot focus on anything but his health and well being. I never imagined being unable to have my dad at any games or me being able to see him as he endures his battle with his health. Yes I want to play football; however, I need to be there for my dad and with my family while still pursuing my goal of being the best student-athlete I can be.”
“Neither Coach Dooley, myself nor anybody else knows what the future holds for my father. 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 unconditional to all schools in Michigan — especially with The University of Tennessee not scheduling any program from the state of Michigan on their current or future schedules.
Coach Dooley has singled two programs that I can’t get an unconditional release to and they are the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.
He told me I can attend any Mid American Conference school I want and if I wanted to attend either The University of Michigan or Michigan State University I would have to pay for school instead of be on scholarship. 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 school close to home.
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 that my father is severely ill.”
Sadly, Dooley’s MAC “compromise” is all to common of the Dooley regime at Tennessee. See, Dooley is too smart for his own good, a football micro-manager who is neither good at micro details nor managing.
Dooley pitched a fit over the plans for UT’s new football facilities, actually adjusting an architect’s rendering because he believed he knew what the facility should look like better than the architect did. Remember the whole shower discipline mantra? That was funny, but it was also pretty wacky, right? How many other head coaches are concerned about how their team showers after the game? You think Nick Saban is giving cleanliness instructions?
This is the same coach, who at a recent football camp, came out of his office to see that the staff had ordered Chik-fil-A sandwiches instead of his requested hamburgers for the campers. Throwing a fit, Dooley demanded that the Chik-fil-A sandwiches be returned and replaced with plain Wendy’s hamburgers.
Seriously, he did this.
He’s also had issues with too many flavors of Gatorade being stocked at the UT facility.
Is it any wonder that a mind obsessed with these trivial details might not be able to beat Kentucky?
Worse than all this, Dooley’s completely tone deaf to public perception. When a kid has a dad with serious health issues and he wants to transfer to an out of conference program, you let him go.
You don’t fight him. You don’t come up with an awful compromise that makes you look worse. You wish him well and let him go.
To steal a phrase from Dooley himself: “It’s basic human decency.”
You remember that phrase, right? That’s what Dooley said when former UT football players were showing up at the practice facility without notifying him first. God forbid somebody come to watch practice without the head coach knowing. That’s a clear affront to human decency.
Dooley’s a lot like another Georgian before him — and it ain’t his dad — it’s Jimmy Carter, whose failed presidency occurred because he couldn’t let others make any decisions. He had to decide everything himself. Dooley’s smart like Carter, but he’s also tone deaft and untrusting of those around him. And Dooley’s solutions often end up blowing up in his face.
If Derek Dooley had been King Solomon, when he offered to split the baby, both sides would have agreed to the split and argued over which half they got.
Then a flummoxed Dooley, hair immaculate underneath his crown, would have been stumped. He would have called Nick Saban for advice. Saban would have said: “I don’t give a sh– about babies.”
Dooley’s problem is that he does care. About way too many issues. If you try to be an expert on everything, you end up being good at nothing.
You have to trust the people around you, and Dooley doesn’t.
If he’d listened to cooler heads, Dooley could have turned Arnett’s departure into a public relations coup. “There are some things more important than football, and being close to a sick daddy is one of them,” Dooley could have said, “I want DeAnthony to be on this team, but he’s only got three more years of football, we don’t know how many years his daddy’s got. I wish him well at (Michigan or Michigan State).”
Don’t you think those three sentences would have probably gotten Dooley a couple of top recruits over the next year and change? If you were a mom or dad wouldn’t you be impressed that the bottom line wasn’t everything to this coach, that he cared about your family’s individual circumstances more than he did his own depth chart at wide receiver?
What would Derek Dooley, a Virginia player, have said if his dad had gotten very sick and he’d wanted to transfer back home to be close to him? But his coach had said, you can go back to Athens, but you can’t play at Georgia. But you’re welcome to play at Georgia State.
Would he have thought that was fair?
I doubt it.
The simple fact is Arnett deserves a full release and if Dooley doesn’t give him one this story is going to go national and be incredibly ugly for the university.
The fact that Dooley didn’t see this national response coming is troubling indeed.
What’s even more troubling? Reading between the lines Dooley has to believe that there are other young players who want to transfer out of his program too. He’s being tough on Arnett because if he isn’t his house of Volunteer cards is about to come tumbling down around him once more.
But that raises an even more troubling question: If you have to bully players with sick dads to stay in your program, what’s the purpose of being a Vol For Life, anyway?
Given a chance to display magnanimity, Dooley chose to be petty.
Sadly, it’s the choice that Dooley makes more often than not.