In early August, about a month after two of his players were arrested in the aftermath of a Cumberland Avenue bar brawl, Derek Dooley called Knoxville Police Deputy Chief David Rausch into his office.
Both were there to clear up a "common misconception," Rausch said, something Dooley had heard "war stories" and "horror stories" about before he took the job as Tennessee's new football coach.
"I think there's this belief that law enforcement is out to get the athletes," Rausch said. "And there's a belief among law enforcement that athletes are prima donnas, guarded and allowed to do things outside the rules.
"We agreed we needed to bridge the gap."
The first step took place two weeks later, when five Tennessee freshmen, two of whom were involved in the July 9 brawl, buckled up next to a Knoxville police officer and saw life from the other side of the windshield for four hours on a Friday night.
The ride-alongs, products of Dooley's "Vol for Life" program, are the "first step of what we hope is many more" in hopes of "building the trust between our guys and their guys," Rausch said.
"When we do have these situations that pop up, then we see them and they see us and they can come up to us and say 'You know me. Let me tell you what happened,' " Rausch said. "They have that comfort level instead of running from the scene if something happens.
"The ones that have been through it, they get it."
Two of the five participating freshmen, wide receivers Da'Rick Rogers and Matt Milton, were at the scene of the brawl that left a Knoxville police officer unconscious, sent another patron to the hospital for multiple injuries and resulted in sophomore safety Darren Myles' dismissal from the team.
Milton was detained and questioned by KPD but never charged. Rogers was initially charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Earlier this month, the resisting arrest charge was dropped and the disorderly conduct charge likely will be dropped Oct. 27, when the case is recalled for dismissal if Rogers completes 16 hours of community service.
In the past, Dooley said he's enforced mandatory ride-alongs for players "who might have had some issues with law enforcement." Now, though, he's hoping to have all the members of his current freshman class, along with all his future players, experience a ride-along at least once throughout their careers.
Offensive linemen Zach Fulton and Marques Pair and safety Dontavis Sapp got a head start in August when they joined Milton and Rogers. The program likely will resume at the end of the season, Rausch said.
"When I got here, there was obviously not a great relationship between law enforcement and maybe some of the athletes," Dooley said. "The best way to learn about each other and to learn to respect each other was for us to meet them and get educated on what their job is like."
The ride-along program is nothing new to both Tennessee's players or their college football counterparts.
Florida coach Urban Meyer instituted a similar program in June 2009 shortly after cornerback Janoris Jenkins became the 24th Gator since 2005 to be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony. Six Florida players have been arrested since the program's birth.
Butch Davis saw better success with his ride-along program at the University of Miami, a school that went through well-documented scandals and NCAA investigations during the mid-90s.
Under Phillip Fulmer in 2008, Tennessee players Gerald Jones, Ahmad Paige and William Brimfield all had to participate in a police ride-along after respective indiscretions.
"If it's a punishment (and) you have to do it, you're there going through motions," Rausch said. "This is the right way."