Chuck Smith’s sudden departure from Tennessee was already curious. But after the former Volunteer star and NFL defensive end held a press conference on Friday to “explain” the circumstances surrounding his dismissal as defensive line coach, I think it’s safe to call it bizarre.
During one 25-minute session, Smith said he was not fired but was not allowed to stay, said he was a “Vol for life” but would consider coaching at another SEC school, compared himself to former UT head coach Lane Kiffin, apologized to recruits for “lying” and saying he’d be there to coach them, and denied rumors he had come to blows with defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.
Smith did manage to thank head coach Derek Dooley and everybody at UT except for Wilcox and the rest of the Vols’ defensive staff. So clearly things aren’t hunky-dory there.
“I put my heart and soul into a job, and I want to let you guys know why I left. The decision to leave the University of Tennessee wasn’t my decision,” said Smith, , an Athens native a former Atlanta Falcon. “The decision was made — let me make sure I say the right thing, this is tough — a mutual decision was brought to me that I’m too big for the program and my stature is too big and I could better help serve this program in a different capacity. Stay and move to another position here or go home. I decided under the circumstances at the school I love and with the effort I put in, in fairness to the program, I probably would need to step to the side. The point is, I never agreed to step to the side.”
Dooley announced that Tennessee and Smith were parting ways on Feb. 6, the weekend after national signing day. Numerous recruits cited Smith’s presence as a big reason they wanted to sign with the Vols.
As for Friday’s news conference — which was conducted outside Neyland Stadium and apparently without the knowledge or blessing of the University of Tennessee — here’s a report from the Knoxville News-Sentinel, here’s a version by longtime UT observer Jimmy Hyams and here’s “Mr. SEC’s” take on it.
The entire exchange is has been dutifully chronicled in two parts on YouTube, which I’ve dutifully provided for you here: