Crews and Ramar Smith dismissed; violation of substance abuse policy and academics were factors

A feel-good day for the Tennessee men’s basketball program was interrupted Friday when coach Bruce Pearl announced that sophomore forward Duke Crews and sophomore point guard Ramar Smith will not be returning for the 2008-09 season.

Violations of the University of Tennessee’s substance-abuse policy and academic shortcomings contributed to both departures, sources within the program told the News Sentinel.

“I am disappointed that Duke and Ramar did not meet the mark and did not succeed to the level of our expectations,” Pearl said moments before UT’s annual basketball banquet.

The announcement came following a media session with Pearl and senior shooting guard Chris Lofton, in which both discussed Lofton’s successful battle against testicular cancer last spring. Lofton first revealed publicly on Thursday that he had suffered from the disease in 2007.

Pearl said the departures of Crews and Smith were not related and not because of any one incident.

“Sort of, over a period of time, a buildup,” Pearl said. “They did a lot of good things, but they also failed to do some things.

“We just felt like — both the University of Tennessee and these student-athletes — we’d be better served to move on.”

Crews and Smith, both freshman All-SEC selections in 2006-07, saw their production and minutes drop off this past season, albeit for different reasons.

In September, Crews was suspended 30 days for a violation of team rules, which included an incident in which a search of his on-campus apartment turned up a small amount of marijuana. Crews was not charged by campus police.

He had, however, previously failed a drug test, the News Sentinel reported at the time of his suspension, citing an anonymous source within the athletic department.

“Everybody will have their own opinion,” Crews said after returning from suspension in October. “I’m just sorry it happened.”

As per UT’s drug policy for a first-time violation, he was not suspended for the failed drug test, although he was subject to more frequent testing. Under UT’s drug policy, a player is immediately dismissed following a fourth positive test for marijuana.

In December, Crews was diagnosed with a heart condition after a routine echocardiogram revealed a possible defect. As a result he missed UT’s next nine games before returning to the court in late January.

He finished the season averaging 5.4 points and four rebounds in 26 games.

Smith, meanwhile, struggled to produce the way he did as a freshman. After averaging 14.7 points in UT’s run to the Sweet 16 in 2006, Smith did not start a game in this year’s NCAA tournament, although he played in all 36 of UT’s games. He averaged 7.4 points and was second on the team with 116 assists this past season.

Smith also struggled to gain admission to Tennessee. He enrolled in late August of 2006 after the NCAA Clearinghouse finally validated an SAT score from earlier in the summer. A highly recruited player from Detroit, Smith had initially committed to Connecticut.

In late September, Smith was involved in an odd incident in which he borrowed a teammate’s car and crashed it, leaving the scene before police arrived. Pearl said at the time Smith was not charged by police because a friend picked him up to receive medical treatment for a cut above his eye.

Another point guard from Michigan, signee Daniel West from Saginaw, would figure to benefit from Smith’s departure when West arrives on campus this summer. Sophomore J.P. Prince also could be in the point guard mix next fall, as he played there extensively in last season’s NCAA tournament. reported that the Vols extended a scholarship offer to 6-foot-3-inch point guard Bobby Maze of Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. He started for Oklahoma as a freshman but was dismissed from the team.

Crews’ minutes likely will be spread among a number of players, including Ryan Childress, in Pearl’s deep rotation.

Staff writer Drew Edwards contributed to this report.

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Comments » 185

CT_VOL writes:

I can see Ramar leaving town after the public dismay over his play. But why would Duke leave? Maybe a another medical problem?


nivatne writes:

What is going on?!?!? Someone have any inside info on this??? Does this open up 2 scholarships??? Are these vacancies we have to fill in this summer w/ the recruits that are left??? Answers, please!!! ANYONE!!!

dvols writes:


ONUV writes:

not going to speculate. but this sucks. they hadn't played to their potential yet.

at least we have a really good recruiting class coming in

cjraney writes:


utvol008 writes:


jimr07 writes:

fire fulmer

cat54 writes:

I would bet that it has to do with a failure to meet acadamic requirements.

nivatne writes:

Seriously, are we going to look to try and sign a couple more recruits? This really hurts our depth at the guard position.

tigervol9802 writes:

Well dang. Not a good couple of days for bball fans.

Ramar....not surprised. Duke...very surprised.

volfan73120#211815 writes:

What a disappointment. Was it academics or something else? It is always sad when young men like this do sometning to lose the gift of a free education.

turner_c writes:

Perhaps that article on the WEB yesterday reporting Ramar's exit and the signing of a Juco guard was right after all? JMO

CoverOrange writes:

“Both were provided every opportunity to succeed here but have not met our expectations."

Sounds like the words used when someone has previously been in trouble and not made it through probation without messing up again. Since there are no arrests involved I'm guessing they failed a test. Probably calculus.

CoverOrange writes:

Okay, I mis-read the quote and the text of the article. Agree that academics are likely. Weren't there rumors before the tournament about players not being eligible?

wagee12 writes:

Another example of Pearl's immediate action on disipline and academic problems. I doubt that these guys got half as many chances as Coker the Toker. Frankly, Williams has much more long term potential than Crews and Ramar was never going to be a great point guard. Good luck guys, hope you get everything squared away and headed in the right direction at another school.

MrBamSeydu writes:

Duke = probably failed drug test or more "mary jane" found in his apt

Ramar = grades

invisiblekid writes:

Whew, what a week. Hate to see these guys go, I think they both have it in them to elevate their games but they still have to play by the rules.

thesavageorange writes:

I posted the article from hoopnews yesterday, and then Several insiders said that they talked to the coaches and all of them denied it.Posted below is the original source, from yesterday, of the dismissal of Ramar and scholly offer to Maze.No mention was ever made of Crews.

tigervol9802 writes:

Wonder if they got 6 chances..............

orangecountry21 writes:

we literally have no depth at guard, which is the heart of our offense
looks like the frosh daniel west will run it

DroopyDrawers writes:

If you can't abid by the rules--Goodbye

GerryOP writes:

Coach Pearl does not mess around. Follow the rules or hit the road. How refreshing... All is well.

miamiVOL writes:

hope this isnt a trend with Pearl's recruiting classes

thesavageorange writes:

GerryOP, Word is this that Ramar andDuke got about as many chances as Coker, and Pearl followed the same guidelines as Fulmer.

Some students on the message boards are saying it's well known that Crews sold marijuana.Word is that Crews is best friends w/ B Vinson.If that's true I hope Vinson isn't involved.

lastlap writes:

Great news. Enough is enough. They got way more chances then they deserved. Jail time will be next "IN YOUR FUTURE". There's a time you have to grow up in your life. These are men now not boys. Even though they act like it.

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:

Pot. Worth every penny of it. Great investment fellas.

thesavageorange writes:

Sorry, I shouldn't have posted that about Crews.I have no idea if it's true or not and don't like spredding personal rumors.

Good luck guys.I hope you find your way.

ggriggs939#223122 writes:

This is an example of the lack of responsibility by the players involved. If it was grades, they apparently could not handle the work. If it was drugs, their need was apparently greater than their desire to succeed in college.
In either case, the players are the losers. I hope they realize they have to follow the rules in whatever endeavor they pursue.

thesavageorange writes:

nicksjuzunk ,Uhhh.......Uhhhh,man I forgot what I was going to say.Anyone seen my cheese curls and kool-aid.

thesavageorange writes:

Now they are saying a violation of substance abuse policy was a factor.I hate it I really do.

LifeTimeVOL writes:

I hate to say it, but it was only a matter of time. It is pretty well-known on campus that they smoke a lot of marijuana. Too bad, they had a big upside but the rules apply to everyone

stroker writes:

Will Adams write a fire BP column and get on talk radio to trash Vol BB in Ga Al or maybe Mich.

GerryOP writes:

Could be savage, but I still give Coach Pearl credit for keeping the problems within "the family" until the transgressions exceeded the limits of the rules. Shows respect for his players.

thesavageorange writes:

GerryOP ,I agree w/ that 100%.I feel bad for Bruce.He really cared for these young men.

gohawks1 writes:

I'm confused - the headline clearly states that "Crews and Ramar Smith dismissed; violation of substance abuse policy a factor", but then Coach Pearl would not identify the reason for the dismissals. If drugs aren't the reason for the dismissals for both of these players, then whoever wrote this headline/article has some 'splaining to do.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

Sad & not fun for anyone involved. I wish Ramar and Duke the best and that they learn from this.

cphil writes:

So who will they play for now? Penn State or State Pen?

surlyguy writes:

Wonder if Coach Pearl go the JUCO route to get some guard play?

thesavageorange writes:

IPOrange, I don't believe the headline originaly sited the possible substance abuse.That is apparently coming from a KNS source.Like any father would do, I suspect Bruce is still trying to protect his guys.I wouldn't be surprised if Bruce is in his office right now calling around and seeing what he can do to get them in a good situation.

surlyguy ,He has apparently already extended an offer to JUCO all-american Bobby Maze.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Has the demon weed struck again?


gohawks1 writes:

savage, that makes sense. I see now where the story was updated about an hour later. Either way, it's a sad day for these two young men.

AllLadyVol writes:

It is such a shame that two guys with such talent would throw their futures away via their immaturity. I do hope they can get their lives straightened out but I applaud Coach Pearl for not allowing their problems to disrupt the rest of the team. You'd think with a guy like Chris Lofton around, they could have learned by his example of what a real man and college athlete is, but some people just never learn.

LargeOrange writes:

Posted by GerryOP on May 2, 2008 at 7:25 p.m.
"Coach Pearl does not mess around. Follow the rules or hit the road. How refreshing... All is well."

Wonder how many chances Duke got that we don't know about? CBP says it was "problems over a period of time and not one specific incident". Well we know it was at least 2 incidents for Duke. Sounds like a lack of supervision by the coaches, how could Bruce have let this happen? It is not like he has to watch close to 100 players, he only has 25 or so players to watch and keep out of trouble, and he has 3 or 4 assistant coaches, some Grad assistants, trainers, ect. That is about a 3 to 1 ratio or less. Sounds like we need John Adams to step in here.

philfan writes:

Coker the Toker. Pretty funny.

dogboy writes:

It's very thoughtful of Duke and Ramar to make room for athletes that really want to be here. Thanks guys and good luck washing cars.

Laydbakvol writes:

Do the crime, do the time. It's sad to see anybody to blow what could be the best opportunities of their lives for some stupid, preventable, youthful mistakes, but I can't feel sorry for them either. The team will be better for it. Thanks Coach.

ps11824 writes:

Under UT’s drug policy, a player is immediately dismissed following a fourth positive test for marijuana.

I can't believe they get that many chances. That's way too lenient for drugs violations. Those screw ups are not worth keeping. We don't need either on the bball team. How dumb to blow a scholarship on weed.

rootin4volz writes:

Sounds to me, from the article, like the wacky weed contributed to a lack of motivation both on the court AND in the classroom.

gpeck#219117 writes:

It's a Haliburton and Bush conspiracy.

rootin4volz writes:

By the way...When exactly WILL we get the article calling for Bruce Pearl's head, John Adams? Two players at one time? It's outta control!!! Sounds to me like you need to be booking yourself a slot on that Birmingham Sports Radio show to slam the basketball program...ya dimwit! What are you gonna say now, big boy? Maybe this will prompt an apology to Coach Fulmer. I'll not be holding MY breath, however.

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