The NCAA, continuing to indulge its fascination with the scat Lane Kiffin left behind in Knoxville, now has asked to speak with former Vol running back Bryce Brown about Kiffin's recruiting practices during Tennessee's Rumspringa.
Brown's father recently delayed the NCAA's investigative team because he was busy preparing for Bryce's appeal of Derek Dooley's decision not to grant Brown a release to play at Kansas State. That appeal hearing concluded yesterday with a 90-minute teleconference, so the investigative team should now be ushered in from the waiting room.
Pardon a quick tangent here: Dooley said his decision not to grant a release was based on the same three factors he uses in all situations, one of which was "the harm that their departure creates for the organization." Whether he meant to limit the harm to the program to that resulting from the player's departure, I don't know, but it probably shouldn't be so limited. Suppose something was rule-breaking hinky about Brown's arrival on Rocky Top and suppose Dooley suspected that. Might that figure in to whether Brown would get a release?
Regardless, Dooley's decision not to grant a release to Brown almost certainly won't help with the intangibles during the investigation. The Browns are probably ticked off about both the current and prior regime at Tennessee now, and while that shouldn't change the facts they relate to the NCAA officials, it likely won't help the tone.
But that's not the most concerning bit about this news. No, that would be found in this statement from Arthur Brown:
"They said they want to talk about the recruiting practices of Tennessee under Kiffin," Arthur Brown said. "We have nothing to hide. We have no need to be deceptive. If we made a mistake I can say it would not have been intentional. But I think this is about more than Bryce."
That's a solid statement up until the italics, which I've added for emphasis. Saying they have nothing to hide is a good, strong denial, and saying they have "no need to be deceptive" is a well-crafted way of gaining credibility by saying they're not going to lie because they have no reason to do so.
But then he says, "If we made a mistake I can say it would not have been intentional."
That there is like laying the groundwork for a plea deal. Seasoned investigators could view that statement, because it was given at such a preliminary stage, as an accidental concession that something wasn't quite right, even if the evidence might at the end of the day be insufficient to establish a serious infraction. If viewed in that manner, the investigators may work even harder to uncover hard evidence of intent or, more likely, additional circumstantial evidence of intent.
In any event, none of this is good. We're three weeks away from launching a new era with a clean slate, and even if absolutely nothing comes of the investigation, it's still a distraction, and honestly, we fans could do without the continual reminders of our mistake in judgment in going for a joy ride with Lane Kiffin.