KNOXVILLE - Four University of Tennessee basketball players were arrested on drug and weapons charges today after a Knoxville police officer stopped the car they were riding in for speeding on Alcoa Highway near Kingston Pike.
All four face misdemeanor charges.
Knoxville police say information they previously released that Smith and Williams faced felony charges was incorrect.
UT coach Bruce Pearl suspended the four players late Friday.
“I'm deeply saddened and troubled by today's news,'' Pearl said. “Accordingly, I'm suspending Melvin, Cameron, Tyler and Brian pending further information.
"I apologize for the embarrassment this has brought to the university."
According to Knoxville Police Department spokesman Darrell DeBusk, a KPD officer stopped the car about 11:30 a.m. today. He smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from the car as he spoke with the driver. He requested back-up and a K9 officer.
After the K9 officer's dog signaled the presence of drugs in the vehicle, the four young men were removed from the car so police could search it.
Inside the vehicle, according to DeBusk, officers found a handgun under the driver's seat, "accessible by either the driver or left rear seat passenger." They also found a handgun, with an altered serial number under the passenger seat, accessible by either the front seat passenger or right rear seat passenger, according to DeBusk.
They also found a baggy of marijuana and an open container of alcohol.
"It could not be determined if the driver and passengers were under the influence of marijuana or not, although the strong odor indicated that marijuana had been recently smoked in the car," according to a statement from DeBusk. "Because of this, physical arrests were made instead of misdemeanor citations for the misdemeanor charges."
Tatum, 21, is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and having an open container of alcohol.
Smith, 23, is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of firearm with an altered serial number.
Goins, 22, is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of marijuana, a schedule VI drug.
Williams, 22, is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm with an altered serial number and possession of marijuana.
DeBusk said the vehicle used was a Dodge Charger and had Illinois plates. A source told the News Sentinel that the vehicle was a rental and was borrowed from a player's friend.
UT compliance is expected to look into the relationship between the players and the person responsible for the rental car to determine if the NCAA would deem it to be a violation of the extra benefit rule.
Smith is a senior and the starting power forward, Tatum is a redshirt sophomore who has started on the wing, Williams is a junior backup center and Goins is a junior college transfer who is the backup point guard.
The 14th-ranked Vols (10-2) flew back from Memphis Thursday night after defeating the Tigers 66-59.
UT's next game is Wednesday at Thompson-Boling Arena against Charlotte.
Smith has started all 12 games and is averaging 11.7 points per game and 4.7 rebounds. Tatum has started 6 games and is averaging 8.7 points per game. Williams has averaged 5.9 points and 5.4 rebounds off the bench. Goins has made one start and is averaging 6.1 points.
Smith announced in June he would not enter the NBA draft. Pearl said when it became apparent that Smith was not "locked down'' as a first-round pick, Smith weighed that against his opportunity to return to UT and graduate and lead the team.
Smith said that he considered playing in Europe, but he never seriously pursued it.
"There was a very slim chance I'd go there,'' Smith said. "I thought about it, but you can't get better fan support and exposure over there than you can right here at the University of Tennessee.''