Tennessee’s Brown cleared by NCAA, avoids suspension

The NCAA on Wednesday ruled that Tennessee’s heralded running back signee Bryce Brown will not face any punishment for his involvement in funded trips to college campuses while he was a high school sophomore.

Freshman tailback Bryce Brown has been impressive in Tennessee's preseason practices. (Photo by Adam Brimer/govolsextra.com)

Freshman tailback Bryce Brown has been impressive in Tennessee's preseason practices. (Photo by Adam Brimer/GoVolsXtra.com)

“The best news of the day is Bryce Brown has been cleared,” coach Lane Kiffin told reporters after Tennessee’s practice Wednesday. Kiffin got the news from athletics director Mike Hamilton during the middle of practice, then informed Brown and the rest of the team a short time later. The team let out a mighty cheer at the news, according to the Knoxville News Sentinal.

“I think that that’s a heck of a deal by the NCAA to get it done right and get it done with a sense of urgency, so we’re very grateful for that,” Kiffin said.

Brown, considered the No. 1 recruit in the country in the Class of 2009, drew the attention of NCAA investigators because of his involvement with Brian Butler, an “adviser” or “handler” who allegedly shopped Brown and other recruits to potential colleges. At one point, Butler was charging money for recruiting updates on Brown and other players he represented on his website, PotentialPlayers.com. He was urged by schools recruiting Brown to stop charging for the information and eventually made it free. The NCAA has been investigating Butler and his relationship with Brown since Febraury.

According to an NCAA investigator that spoke to ESPN.com, Butler raised money during Brown’s sophomore season at Wichita (Kan.) East High School to take the running back and other potential Division I signees on a tour of schools in the South and Southwest. Georgia was included on that itinerary, along with Florida, Florida State, Ole Miss, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

According to Kiffin, Brown was facing a possible NCAA-mandated suspension of up to four games and the prospect of having to repay the money for the trips, which could have been in the thousands.

“By no means was it something that Bryce was doing knowingly that would be wrong,” Kiffin told the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “He was just part of the group and was actually younger than most of the other guys (taking the trips). . . . People or towns assist players as they grow up.”

Georgia, it should be noted, was hit with NCAA probation in the mid-1990s in part for its involvement with a South Florida man named Dan Calloway who allegedly funded trips to Athens and other campuses for potential recruits.

The NCAA’s decision to waive any punishment for Brown is significant. The 6-foot, 215-pound tailback has been one of the Vols’ most impressive players in camp.

23 comments Add your comment

oasis

August 27th, 2009
8:21 am

One thing to note. Tennessee was not even one of the places Brown or the other players visited on these trips. This was all about Brian Butler. It was never about Tennessee.

GeoffDawg

August 27th, 2009
8:38 am

Yeah, Kiffin is more of a secondary violation kind of guy.

RonnieGarDner

August 27th, 2009
8:46 am

Chip, what a piece of trash article. You imply early and often that Tennessee was in danger of the NCAA. Every unbiased article ever written about Brown knew that UT WAS NOT involved in this investigation. It was never about them. This is shade tree writing at best on your part.Do some research and you would know that Brown took trips with many other players. Was it wrong and illegal, may have been, but UT was never even involved in those trips. UT was not even a blip on the kids radar.And to compare the kid in the 80’s with Calloway is way wrong. Everyone knows what that was all about. Small wonder, the AJC or any other paper is losing it’s readers.You along with many other writers are a disgrace to a once respected profession.

dawgstephen

August 27th, 2009
8:53 am

It was never about UT. It was about his AMATEUR STATUS. Here’s the thing. Im glad he got cleared it was a bad situation for him.

Here’s my problem. SEC COMMISSIONER Mike Slive CAUTIONED schools about the possible problems when recruiting Bryce Brown and Tennessee took the risk. It paid off this time. Next time maybe not so lucky. Trust me, they will roll the dice again.

http://www.dawgstephen.blogspot.com

utfaninga

August 27th, 2009
8:55 am

Wonder how many UGA fans will be on this page today to make fun of a coach, ramble on about future probations, and how their 10 win season will be such a huge success. YAWN…..

YoungDawg

August 27th, 2009
9:03 am

The NCAA needs the same rules across the board! Why can baseball payers have agents? When drafted out of HS they can sing a contract reenter as JR’s. (Basketball needs something similar to this.) If they play minor league ball then they don’t forfeit their college football eligibility. Basketball is famous for kids having “handlers” in the form of AAU coaches, shoe reps, private trainers, family or even there HS coach. NCAA lost control of all that so maybe they’re trying to nip in the bud in football. The Julio Jones thing is also stupid! One thing they defiantly should allow is the kids to accept endorsement deals. That could curb or enhance corruption so there would have to be strict rules on it. Controls would need to be in place to keep shoe\apparel companies from controlling the whole recruiting process by giving kids deals in order to funnel them the one of “there” schools. I know that’ll never happen. What brought me to that thought is that it’s not right that a kid makes great plays in college that we see 30 years later in commercials but doesn’t get a dime! If we don’t want to give them stipends then let’s clearly define how they can earn extra money. Bottom line is the NCAA rule book needs to be simplified to focus on kid’s grades being legit, & players not being paid illegally.

[...] you: all part of the plan. Bryce Brown has been cleared by the NCAA to play at Tennessee after a momentary glance at fundraising for camp fees for the highly touted running back in high [...]

Gerald Ball

August 27th, 2009
9:17 am

Please, stop saying “this is about Brian Butler.” These trips are legal, and Brown and all of Butler’s players were cleared. The NCAA wants to make stuff like this illegal and rid themselves of people like Butler – people who advocate for the high school athlete instead of allowing them to be at the mercy of these powerful athletic programs run by coaches who make million dollar salaries – but they can’t. That shows you whose side the NCAA is on, and it isn’t the 17 year old kids, many of whom are from small towns or inner cities, are the first in their families to go to college, and lack the knowledge and sophistication to navigate this process themselves.

ESPN.com nailed it … it is hypocritical for the NCAA to go after Brian Butler, because college basketball has had guys like him, guys who run those basketball camps and such, for decades. And the kids who attend those basketball camps take all sorts of trips, get tons of free stuff from the shoe companies, you name it. Read the book “Raw Recruits” by Alexander Wolff and Armen Keteyian, and that was about what was going on in college basketball in the 1980s! I know that the NCAA wants to prevent the same type of thing from developing in football that has long existed in basketball, but they can’t legally prevent it. All Brian Butler has to do is follow the same rules that people who run these basketball camps have been following for going on 30 years, and they can’t touch him or his players.

And yes, this is collusion. The SEC commissioner tried to get his schools not to recruit Brown despite knowing full well that Butler wasn’t doing anything wrong. And the NCAA tried to hammer Brown with a 4 game suspension and this huge fine. The only reason why they backed off was because Kiffin stood up for his player. Kiffin forced the NCAA to admit that nothing was wrong.

And yes, the media is playing along. There was this quote buried on ESPN: “I’m just glad the NCAA process works,” Brian Butler, Brown’s trainer and mentor, told ESPN.com’s Joe Schad.”I’m just glad the evidence showed we didn’t do anything wrong. I’m just glad Bryce gets to play right away.”

Why? Because the NCAA and the sports media – which needs the NCAA – doesn’t want guys like Butler around so they can keep getting over on poorly educated naive 17 year olds, so coaches like Nick Saban can keep overbooking these kids and later running them off to Division II schools. Tell the truth, media! That is, if you have it in you.

Da truth

August 27th, 2009
9:19 am

Would Alabama had the same result if he had signed with them????

Da truth

August 27th, 2009
9:19 am

NCAAtzies!!!!!!!!!

Bamafan

August 27th, 2009
9:50 am

If Alabama had signed Bryce Brown more red flags would go off than a July 4th fireworks show! More
cow college fans and other Bama haters would be starting rumors about the death penalty as fast as I
typing this story!!

UT96

August 27th, 2009
9:54 am

Dawgstephen, I can promise you Kiffin or UT will not take a chance on a kid unless they are confident the kid has done nothing that would raise the ire of the NCAA. As for Mike Slime: I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, this chump has no business telling any SEC school who to recruit and who not to recruit. He needs to sit in his cushy little office in Birmingham and shut the f**k up. What a scumbag.

Brew

August 27th, 2009
9:55 am

All of this had to do with fundraising for HS kids to take this trip. None of the other kids from this trip who signed scholarship papers were investigated. It’s all about Butler. I would say it raises concerns about car washes and donut sales for HS kids on travel teams, but it’s doubtful any of them are the #1 recruit in the highest profile college sport. Can’t believe the NCAA eventually did right by Brown.

MegaT

August 27th, 2009
10:43 am

Good for Bryce Brown, Tennessee and the SEC. This kid will make our Conference better. Now, the NCAA needs to let the Bama kids off the “fishing hook”. It is senseless for that fishing trip to even be an issue IMO. I’m not a Bama fan, but I am a fan of these kids whoever they play for. Go Vols!

Instant Classic1

August 27th, 2009
10:49 am

UT96, “Kiffin and UT will not take a chance on a kid….” They offered schollys to a convicted rapist, a d-lineman who flunked out of UF and M. Ambles. Baggage, Baggage everywhere. There was respect for UT when Fulmer was there, Kiffy has turned your program into a joke.

24 days till bozo gets his beating……..Fear 9-19-9

MegaT

August 27th, 2009
11:09 am

Instant Classis1, you are the joke! You come on here and act like your school is Mother Theresa. You a gator fan? Let’s talk about your arrest record. Seems to me that if UF gets a kid hurt, all they have to do is go down to the county jail and bail a backup out. Get real Classic1 and quit spewing your garbage.

UT96

August 27th, 2009
2:31 pm

Instant classic1, none of the players mentioned were in trouble with the NCAA (if you bothered to read through my post).

As for Sept 19th, Fla. may win but it won’t be a blowout. Your Gators days are numbered chump. Get ready for the Lane train in the coming years scumbag.

General Feeling

August 27th, 2009
2:47 pm

It’s Time.

Cuz

August 27th, 2009
4:26 pm

Congratulations to Bryce Brown. Make the most of it.

Jeezelbub

August 27th, 2009
9:58 pm

Why didn’t the article state what a model citizen and student Brown is? He graduated HS with a 3.6 GPA and had a 3.7 GPA at UT his first semester this summer. Brown is a class act and a very mature freshman that is driven to be the best he can be. UT has a “gem” of a player and the SEC and entire country will know who Bryce Brown is over the next couple of years.

blueboy

August 28th, 2009
1:30 am

The NCAA had no case to start with nine other players that signed with D-1 schools also made those trips. The NCAA only singled out Brown. UGA doesn’t take chances with guys they turn them into criminals once they get there!

Flo-Ri-Duh!

September 1st, 2009
7:39 am

blueboy are you lost?

Flo-Ri-Duh!

September 1st, 2009
7:41 am

He ran for 300 yards against Collins Hill for goodness sake…. my 3 year old kid could run for 300 yards against Collins Hill.