"Brandon Warren is no longer with our team. He has been dismissed for conduct detrimental to our team. We wish him the best of luck. We'll give him full academic support to keep him going in school, and that's the last I'm going to comment on it. Very unfortunate."
Lane Kiffin, Tennessee football coach
Tennessee worked overtime to get Brandon Warren into the program.
The Vols are apparently no longer interested in keeping him there.
After throwing his helmet and then getting into a visible confrontation with an assistant coach on the sidelines on Saturday during a loss to Auburn, the former Alcoa star Warren was dismissed by UT on Monday by coach Lane Kiffin. The outburst might not have been the only reason for the decision, but both the nature of the argument and the publicity it received were enough to push Kiffin past the breaking point and to end the junior's star-crossed career.
"Brandon Warren is no longer with our team," Kiffin said. "He has been dismissed for conduct detrimental to our team. We wish him the best of luck. We'll give him full academic support to keep him going in school, and that's the last I'm going to comment on it. Very unfortunate.
"Like I said, I'm not going to get into it any further out of respect to him and his family, but he's not been removed from this team because of that solely."
UT didn't address what else Warren might have done, and messages requesting comment from his family weren't returned to the News Sentinel.
Warren was a freshman All-America after spurning the Vols and signing with Florida State, but he elected to return home to be closer to his mom Deidre after she was diagnosed with cancer. UT had to endure a long appeal process to get Warren on the field as a sophomore a season ago, but it never got the results it expected and the new coaching staff has been critical of the converted tight end almost since it arrived.
The Vols also have been dealing with drama from at least one other receiver during the last couple games, which might have left them short on patience.
The line between helping and hurting the team with competitive fire and by showing frustration is blurry at best, but it would seem clear which side UT believes Warren is on. Gerald Jones wasn't suspended for even a down after a similar disagreement the week before against Ohio, though he also apologized both publicly and privately to the team.
"I have no problem with (being competitive)," Kiffin said. "There are a lot of great players that are so competitive that at times they get frustrated. That's understandable, but there are ways to control your emotions and there's a difference at times between a five-second show of emotion and one that's much longer.
"With Gerald, he had a good week of practice last week. He did have a small issue on the sidelines, something that he's learned from and something he has expressed that he's apologetic for. He had a good week last week, a good day (Monday) and he needs to continue to improve."
Warren won't be getting the same chance, and it's not a matter of production since he had at least shown signs of on-field improvement early in the season.
He caught seven passes for 54 yards in five games, but Warren was perhaps UT's best red-zone target in the passing game, using his size to haul in a pair of touchdowns in his limited opportunities. The Vols tried to get the football specifically to him against Auburn on two occasions as well, though a low throw and a fumbled snap killed both of those plays.
Warren's frustration appeared to boil over even before ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews reported his run-in with receivers coach Frank Wilson and said they had to be separated. At one point, a third-down incompletion prompted him to sprint directly off the sideline and throw his helmet by the bench, and now both of those images will be among the last of his career at UT.
"We're not perfect, none of us are," Kiffin said. "But you've got to catch yourself after a couple of seconds when you start to make a mistake and stop there.
" . . . Adversity, if handled right, makes you stronger. A lot of times things get worse before they get better, unfortunately, when you take over a program. I said it last week, we've got 95 percent of the guys doing things right and buying in and we'll be closer to being a championship team as more and more guys buy in. Unfortunately, along the way if they don't, other things have to happen."
The Vols certainly have a clearer picture of those consequences now.