Yesterday, when news of DeAnthony Arnett's conditional release hit, the greatest fear was that a PR nightmare would unravel, leaving a program and a young man trying to make it home to be closer to an ailing father tangled in its aftermath. Today, it unfolded exactly the way many had feared.
Whether or not you take the side of the program, or, like me, you question the motives behind Dooley's decisions, you can't deny that what has transpired over the last 48 hours is nothing short of gut-wrenching. It's simply a lose-lose situation.
Now, what started as a local blurb has transformed into this national media story that will demonize the Tennessee football program as an inhumane organization run by a tyrannical leader in Derek Dooley. Justifiable or not (you know where I stand), the ammunition is infinite, and sensationalists have essentially been unleashed.
Rivals fanbases are salivating at the potential repercussions on the recruiting trail, and a certain (formerly) bearded Nashvillian has once again arrived unfashionably late to the scene of the crime. And typically, my support for Clay Travis is about as tenuous as his recent mustache, but in this instance, I have to say he's correct.
It's not a full-fledged endorsement, because as is typical with a Clay Travis column, the anti-Dooley ranting permeates and often clouds the actual point that Travis is getting at, but at it's core, Clay's message, or at least my interpretation of such, is warranted and valid. Derek Dooley botched this decision on an almost incomprehensible level.
Now it's Tennessee and Arnett who have to deal with the consequences. For Tennessee, the negative connotations of this coverage are blatant. However, there's also consequence for Arnett.
Beyond the fact that DeAnthony Arnett's education and collegiate football career has temporarily been put in question, Arnett will almost certainly have to deal with the demented minority of the Tennessee fanbase that will somehow blame him for the oncoming media crucifixion the Vols await. It's a sad, small portion that you can find in virtually every fanbase, but like any other fanatical group, my are they vocal.
At this stage in the game, it's difficult to imagine that this PR snafu is salvageable, but for the sake of right and wrong Derek Dooley needs to grant DeAnthony Arnett an unconditional release and cut his losses.
Not to suggest that one should willfully bend to public sentiment, because that kind of thinking leads to simple-mindedness. However, it doesn't appear that Dooley is making any sort of stand. As a matter of fact, it's just standoffish.