Drive afar or foot the bill.
In an unusual move, Dooley told the sophomore that he would only release Douglas from his UT scholarship if he enrolled at a school that was at least an eight-hour drive from Knoxville.
Dooley’s decision is being reviewed by a financial aid committee. A final decision is expected this week.
Dooley had long refrained from commenting on Douglas’ reasons for transferring, only saying that it was a personal matter. Dooley offered a bit more insight Monday.
“It’s always been that his problems are from being here, being close to home,” Dooley said. “I felt like, first off, you don’t run from problems, you get problems to run from you. That’s what I tried to work with him on.
“The problems don’t go away, but he was convinced that his problems were here. And so I said ‘OK, Aaron if that’s the case, I think we need to move away from the problem to help you.’ ”
The stipulation doesn’t prevent Douglas from going to any school, but prevents him from being placed on scholarship. Therefore, Douglas would have to pay his way for a year if he decides to enroll at a Division I school to which he has not been released. Dooley announced March 25 that he would not release Douglas to any team on Tennessee’s schedule. That restriction is still intact.
Dooley said he has not heard back from Douglas concerning his college destination.
Douglas is a key loss. The former Maryville High School star was a freshman All-American last season after nailing down a starting job at offensive tackle in his first season at the position. He had previously played tight end.
Dooley maintained the stipulation for Douglas’ departure wasn’t mean-spirited nor meant to be a punishment.
“I think it’s the exact opposite,” Dooley said. “I’m trying to help him. If the problem is truly at home, then he shouldn’t be at home. But if it’s not truly at home, then we think he should be at Tennessee.”
Douglas’ father, former UT offensive lineman David Douglas, declined comment.
Aaron Douglas could not be reached for comment.
Dooley knows what it’s like to play football far from home. He did so when he left Athens, Ga., to walk-on at Virginia.
“I went to school eight hours away from my home and it was a wonderful thing because I had a different set of issues — that I was (former Georgia coach) Vince Dooley’s son, which was wonderful in many ways but you were never able to forge your identity,” Derek Dooley said. “Because I went to school and had a great experience, met new people, they judged me for who I was not who my father was, I felt like that was a very similar thing that Aaron needed on different issues.”
Douglas’ issues are unclear.
Dooley said he will do all he can to help Douglas play elsewhere.
“I’ll be happy to help him anywhere,” Dooley said. “I’ll call (other schools) for him because I’m for Aaron Douglas. Do I want him here to be successful? Of course I do. But if he’s not here, I don’t wish ill will on him. I want him to be a better person and a better player.”
Douglas is one of three high-profile players the Vols lost this semester, along with tailback Bryce Brown and quarterback Nick Stephens. Dooley said he believes Douglas and Brown would have benefited from staying at UT.
“I wish both of them would stay in our program for a year, and then if they don’t like it we can shake hands (and move on),” Dooley said. “But I do feel like what we’re putting in our program is exactly what they need in their lives.”