Bryce Brown is welcome to enroll at Kansas State or anywhere else he might choose.
But the former Tennessee running back will have to pay his own way next season.
Citing three main areas of evaluation, Vols coach Derek Dooley confirmed late Friday night that Brown will not be released from his scholarship - and the fact his request was made in a text message appears to have little to do with the ultimate decision.
"As with the other players who have asked for a release, I went through the same process with the same criteria with Bryce," Dooley said. "These are the three key factors - what their personal investment into the program was, did they have their heart into it and did they give it a good, fair shot. No. 2, the harm that their departure creates for the organization. No. 3, how they handle it as a professional.
"I've done that with every one of these guys -- with Aaron (Douglas), with Todd Campbell, with Nick Stephens, Nick Lamaison and now Bryce. So now my decision based on those three factors with Bryce is not to release him."
Brown doesn't need to be released to transfer to Kansas State and likely join his brother with the Wildcats, which has long been the expected destination of the nation's top-ranked recruit in the class of 2009. But without one from the Vols, Brown can't be placed on scholarship during the transfer year he'll be forced to sit out this season.
It's a similar situation to the one Lamaison currently faces after Dooley recently turned down the sophomore quarterback's request as well, another example of the case-by-case approach UT has taken with players that have elected to leave since the first-year coach took over in January. Campbell and Stephens each parted ways amicably with the program, and the other issue with Douglas fell somewhere in the middle - with Dooley granting a release but placing restrictions on the destination.
The Brown saga has been filled with drama from the start though, beginning with his surprising absence from the first practice of spring and wrapping up this week with him heading home to Kansas and texting Dooley to ask out of his scholarship. The two did have a conversation over the weekend, but with no talk of releases or his future at that point, they scheduled another well-publicized meeting for Monday or Tuesday to finally bring the matter to a close with just a week left before the start of fall camp.
It never actually materialized, but an outcome has been reached anyway - and the lack of a final face-to-face discussion hardly seems to have been the determining factor.
"I'm not mad at Bryce," Dooley said. "I've got a lot of respect for Bryce as a person, and I have a lot of respect for the family. This is not a personal issue.
"It's a professional issue, and it's not because he didn't come see me. I used the same evaluation process that we used for the other guys, and I have an obligation to protect our organization."
After months of uncertainty, the organization is officially moving on without Brown. And Brown is heading elsewhere without a release.