That decision, the News Sentinel later learned, was not Golden’s to make.
A UT athletic department source with knowledge of the situation told the News Sentinel that Golden’s departure is “based on academics” and a result of “repeated plagiarism.”
The source said Golden was not going to be permitted to continue at the university past this semester and would not have been allowed to attend summer school to repair his academic standing.
Following a Tuesday morning flurry of rumors regarding Golden’s potential transfer, Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin confirmed the news in a two-word text message to the News Sentinel.
“He’s transferring,” Martin wrote.
Moments later, the university made things official with a press release announcing the Powder Springs, Ga., native was moving on.
“We want nothing but the best for Trae,” Martin said in the release. “Everyone associated with our program wants to see him be successful, and we wish him well.”
No further explanation for Golden’s decision was included in the press release.
Various reports emerged throughout the day citing academics as a potential cause.
Golden started 58 of his 96 career games over three years with the Vols, averaging 9.7 points, 3.6 assists and 2.4 rebounds. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Golden was the Vols’ second-leading scorer last season at 12.1 points per game and led UT with 13.7 points per game as a sophomore.
“I had a great three years here at Tennessee, but I plan to play my senior year somewhere else this fall,” Golden said in the release. “I really appreciate the staff and all the great support from Vol fans. I’m definitely going to miss my teammates. I want them to have nothing but success in the future.”
Golden’s exit comes in the wake of former UT signee Travon Landry, a point guard from Huntington (W.Va.) Prep, being released from a National Letter of Intent at Martin’s request.
Tennessee’s depth at the point guard position is now the No. 1 issue facing the Vols. Incoming freshman guard Darius Thompson played some point for Blackman High School in Murfreesboro, but is still learning the position.
Other UT players with experience at point guard in Martin’s motion offense include Jordan McRae, Armani Moore and walk-on Brandon Lopez.
Tennessee sits one scholarship under the NCAA limit of 13, should Martin choose to add a freshman or transfer to his 2013-14 class.
An uneven junior campaign saw Golden fall out of Martin’s starting lineup 13 games into the season. He averaged 30.8 minutes per game during the first 10 games of the year. That number dropped to 20.0 minutes per contest in UT’s next nine outings as he went from starter to reserve.
After missing two games with a hamstring injury in early February, a rejuvenated Golden returned to the lineup and reclaimed his starting role after one game. He averaged 35.8 minutes per game in the season’s last 12 games, including a 56-minute, 32-point showing in a quadruple-overtime victory at Texas A&M.
Golden averaged 13.8 points on 41.9 percent shooting and 3.8 assists in his final 12 games as a Vol.
Immediately following news of Golden’s transfer Tuesday, former UT player Tobias Harris, Golden’s friend and current member of the Orlando Magic, took to Twitter voicing his displeasure, writing, “it ain’t his decision,” and “he is not trying to transfer, he wants to stay.”
Former Vol and fellow transfer Yemi Makanjuola, who was granted his release to leave UT on April 20, tweeted, “This whole thing is the craziest.”
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn.