Aug. 26, 2009
BY DREW EDWARDS
With a little more than 30 minutes to go in football practice Wednesday evening, Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton stopped by Haslam Field to deliver some news to his head coach.
The NCAA had been looking into whether money was improperly raised to help Brown, as well as several other players from his hometown of Wichita, Kan., visit college campuses. The NCAA had initially ruled that Brown be suspended for four games and asked to repay a sum that Kiffin called "up there."
"Our people did a great job and the NCAA did a great job of continuing to investigate it, to look at it, to go back and ended up changing it to nothing," said Kiffin, who also praised the work of UT associate athletic director for compliance Brad Bertani. "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."
Kiffin said he wasn't exactly sure what played a role in the NCAA's decision, however he said Brown wrote a letter last week stating his case to the NCAA.
"I think it'd be guessing a little bit on my behalf to say what factored in," Kiffin said. "I know that he did a phenomenal job with the letter late last week. He wrote a very detailed, long letter about the experience and about him and what he's gone through. Sent that to the NCAA. I would think that that helped.
"I don't know what are the final factors, except that it's what's right," Kiffin continued. "In the end, they got it right. He shouldn't be punished. He didn't do something knowingly wrong. I'm very excited about that, and I think that says a lot about the system."
It's also really good news as the Vols prepare for their season opener against Western Kentucky, which takes place a week from Saturday.
Brown, who was sidelined last week by a hip injury when news of the NCAA's initial ruling surfaced, hadn't seen his practice snaps decrease. Kiffin said that was largely because of his optimism that the NCAA would ultimately rule in Brown's favor.
"I really believe that they were going to get this right," Kiffin said. "Without going into too much detail, I had some conversations with the NCAA and I really felt like they were going to get this thing right. I really spent time explaining who this kid is and what he's about, how this is not a kid that should be punished for something like this. I think that was part of me just being positive. We did not limit his reps. We did not take out plays that we had going in. We just planned along as if he was going to be there."
And Brown - who per UT's policy on freshmen availability during fall camp wasn't available for interviews Friday - couldn't be happier, Kiffin said.
"His smile today when I told him going into that last period when I just found out during the break, he put his arm around me," Kiffin said. "It was pretty neat to see. He was pretty excited."
McNeil Out '3-4 Weeks': Senior center Josh McNeil underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Wednesday morning, but Kiffin said it was too early to tell exactly how long he might be out.
"At best, probably 3-4 weeks, but that's just the initial scope that they did," Kiffin said. "They might have to go in and do a bunch more stuff."
Reach Drew Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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