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Bryce Brown may not deserve sympathy, but he doesn't deserve this, either

Ever since Lane Kiffin left Tennessee for scandal-ridden Southern California, speculation has been rampant among K-State fans that prized Wichita running back Bryce Brown would transfer to K-State.  Brown's brother, Arthur's, transfer from Miami to The Little Apple did nothing to quell that speculation.  And yet, despite all the speculation, days turned into weeks and months and nothing was announced.

But last week, it was finally reported that Brown was leaving Knoxville, although not in the way you'd prefer to hear if you're the school looking for him to transfer in.  According to reports, he merely texted new head coach Derek Dooley to inform him of his decision and ask for a release from his scholarship.  It sounded a little like the way Josh Freeman apparently let Bill Callahan and Nebraska know that he wasn't interested in going to Lincoln a few years ago.

However, over the weekend, the Brown family claimed that Brown actually had met with Dooley, and that Dooley had told him to keep that meeting quiet while simultaneously asking for another meeting.  As Joel at Rocky Top Talk astutely notes, it doesn't appear that Brown asked Dooley for a release at that meeting.  While Brown's father has apparently been asking Dooley for a release since April, there's no evidence that Brown himself has ever asked for a release.

Brown won't get much sympathy in this, or any, situation because of the way he -- or more accurately, Brian Butler -- handled his recruitment.  He waited until well past signing day and became the poster child for recruiting narcissism that would engender Seantrel Henderson and then, of course, be topped by WWLLebronapalooza2010WOOHOO!!!

Further, among the many things you should learn at college is the ability to make your own decisions and take responsibility for your own actions.  Granted, he's only a freshman, but Brown shouldn't need his dad to ask Dooley for a release.  He should ask for it himself.

However, it strikes me as more than a little hypocritical for Dooley to claim that he's the white hat because he's "protecting the program."  I fail to see how refusing to release Brown from his scholarship is protecting Tennessee's program in any way.  His actions are not going to force Brown to return to Knoxville.  Brown doesn't want to transfer to a school within the Southeastern Conference, and he doesn't want to transfer to a school that is on Tennessee's schedule in the next four years.

Make no mistake, Dooley is not protecting Tennessee's program.  He is punishing Bryce Brown.  I won't pretend to know why.  My guess is that it's because he's upset about how Brown has handled this situation, and drawn it out through the entire spring and summer, ending about a month before the first game.  Cynically, I wonder if Dooley, formerly the coach of Louisiana Tech, is in over his head at a major program.  We saw at K-State what happens when a head coach is in over his head during the Ron Prince years.

We've also seen the other side of this in basketball.  When Florida International hired Isiah Thomas as its new head coach, star big man Freddy Asprilla asked for a release so he could transfer.  Thomas, new to the college coaching ranks, refused to grant it, forcing Colombia-native Asprilla to either pay his way for a year at K-State or go to a junior college for a year.  He chose junior college.

Situations like this raise the touchy issue of whether NCAA transfer rules are too harsh on student athletes or whether student athletes need to have more loyalty to the institution they chose.  Those holding to the latter viewpoint cling to an outdated perception that blue-chip high school recruits want to go play for good ol' State U, get an education, and if they're gosh-darn lucky enough, have a chance to play pro football someday.  The elite recruits now choose their schools based on coaches and systems they believe will get them ready to play in the NFL.  If you're cynical, you might throw in that they choose based on which school will pay them the best.

While I'm not comfortable with eliminating all transfer restrictions such that college athletes become similar to professional free agents, some situations justify a little leniency.  Dooley is within his rights to handle the situation the way he has.  It looks like he's trying to be old school and teach Brown a lesson about maturity.  Of course, we're also well within our rights to consider him petty for doing so, or harsher language if you so prefer.

Either way, whenever he becomes eligible to play, I welcome Bryce Brown back to Manhattan.  All criticisms of his outward personality aside, he's a tremendous talent at running back.  My hope is that Snyder and his staff will be the positive influence for him that Butler clearly has not been.  If not, well, we always have DeMarcus Robinson.