Derek Dooley began his answer by saying he "didn't really have an opinion."
The Tennessee coach finished by delivering the strongest response of any SEC coach who fielded a question about the implementation of multi-year scholarships on National Signing Day.
In short, Dooley stands against what at least nine of 12 Big Ten teams and, as far as we know, Auburn and Florida did Wednesday. Representatives from all of those schools and a number of others are on the record saying that all of the members of their 2012 class received four-year scholarships rather than the one-year deals that have been the norm in modern college athletics.
Without specifically saying whether or not UT's 21 signees received more than a one-year scholarship, Dooley clearly laid out where he stands on the latest hot topic in NCAA reform.
"We forget this is a contract, a two-way street," Dooley said. "I think it's humorous that the academic institution can give an academic scholarship and take it away when a student doesn't perform at a certain GPA-level, but it's absolutely the worst thing you can do as a coach — it's so wrong what you do to these young people — when he doesn't do what he's supposed to do."
And then, well, Dooley reminded the gathering of reporters that he has a background in law.
"I'm still trying to figure out what I'm missing," he said. "You have these contracts. It's called quid pro quo. We give you this. You give us that. But if they don't give us that and we decide not to give them this, then it's the worst thing you can do. I'm still struggling to understand that issue.
"I'm not smart enough to figure it out. I have to spend more time on it before I give an opinion."
The majority of those decision-makers above Dooley don't agree. As soon as this month, the NCAA Board of Directors could pass legislation, which was previously tabled in October because a handful of schools opposed it, that would make multi-year scholarships permanently available.
That would put coaches like Dooley who are opposed to the idea in a bit of a bind. Rival schools who do distribute the multi-year scholarships could use it as a reason to say, "Hey, we here at State U obviously care more about your well-being than that guy."
Considering how SEC commissioner Mike Slive called for the implementation of multi-year scholarships at last year's Media Days, that might not ever be an issue. It could very well be universally adopted and enforced.
Much like the SEC's newly instituted 25-player signing cap, which drew the ire of a number of the league's coaches, similar grumbling has already emerged from the usual suspects.
"I think this is some people's cynical approach, to think that coaches don't have the best interests of the young people that they coach in mind, which I've already said I resent," Alabama coach Nick Saban said at his Signing Day press conference. "I think that every coach that I know has the best interests of his players in mind. I don't know of situations where players are not getting treated fairly in terms of what their responsibility is to what they need to do as college football players and student athletes, in terms of the rules, both academic and behavioral that they need to represent themselves and the university that they represent."
Saban makes a good point. It wasn't a newsworthy event this past summer when UT and the rest of the SEC's schools renewed the vast majority of their players' one-year scholarships and it won't be one when they do the same this year.
The rare exceptions, while still unacceptable and the reason why this legislation has gained so much traction, receive a disproportionate amount of exposure. Just like the controversial oversigning debate. The success stories from grayshirts (UT cornerback Tino Thomas) don't garner anywhere close to the exposure like the recent story of Atlanta area running back Justin Taylor, an Alabama commitment who was told more than a month before National Signing Day that he would have to grayshirt the 2012 season because there wasn't room for him in this year's class.
And, again, much like the oversigning debate, fewer and fewer coaches are coming out against the proposed legislation because it seems all but inevitable.
Coaches like Dooley, Saban and Virginia's Mike London no longer represent the majority even if their opinions truly resonate with their peers.
When asked about Florida's distribution of four-year scholarships, coach Will Muschamp provided three consecutive one-word answers before moving on to a different topic of discussion. At Auburn, coach Gene Chizik mistakenly said that his 2012 class all received one-year scholarships before a compliance official clarified that the Tigers had, in fact, gone the four-year route.
Clearly, the coaches aren't spearheading this movement.
"I've got to coach you, teach you, give you the examples of what's expected," London told The Washington Post. "And then you have to do what's expected in order for every July, when you renew those scholarships, to make it happen again."