Tennessee football: Vols reinstating Bryce Thompson looks bad, desperate

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images /

Jeremy Pruitt announced that Tennessee football has reinstated Bryce Thompson. That’s a horrible look for the head coach and the Volunteers as a whole.

I was on record when the incident broke that even if the worst was proven about Bryce Thompson, Tennessee football should only suspend him for a year and allow him to return next season. You can read that here.

That did not change after the reports of the restraining order from a previous woman in 2018 came out against Thompson. My position was clear. The issue that got him suspended indefinitely did not have any accusations of violence, and while the restraining order did allege physical violence, it happened when he was in high school.

Look at both things, I took the Nick Saban approach: Where do you want the player to be? If a player hasn’t done something we believe should warrant prison time, which Thompson hasn’t yet, then rehabilitation is a much better process than a dismissal. And a healthy punishment combined with anger management courses could be that rehabilitation.

However, Jeremy Pruitt announced Wednesday that he allowed Thompson to return and participate in team activities, according to Patrick Brown of GoVols247. Pruitt said the university has taken the issue very seriously and that he believes Thompson can “grow by following the plan the university has put in place for him.”

Sorry, but this makes Pruitt and Tennessee football look horrible. For starters, it seems like an immediate admission that Thompson is guilty of what he was accused of. And the evidence already suggest that.

In case anybody forgot, the reports stated that witnesses told police he threatened to slap his girlfriend. Two other witnesses said he threatened to shoot up the school. Thompson, for his part, changed his story when speaking to police about breaking a metal gate.

So at this point, we know witnesses accused Thompson of threatening physical violence against a woman and to carry out a mass shooting. We also know he lied to police. And we know about the restraining order and accusations of violence against him from another woman. Finally, we know Pruitt did not deny any of it in his statement reinstating the sophomore cornerback.

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As a result, this is a hideous look. Tennessee football is fine to keep Thompson on the team, but reinstating him after missing just two games hints at no consequences for what happened. What plan could the university put in place that will help Thompson, when a pattern is emerging that makes him look like he can get away with anything?

This just looks desperate. Let’s call it what it is. The Vols are 0-2. Their secondary could not contain a running quarterback in the opener and had a major lapse that allowed the BYU Cougars to beat them the next week. If Thompson were on the field, there’s a very good chance they are 2-0 at this point.

Did Pruitt make his decision based on that? It certainly seems so. Again, I want to be clear that I don’t think Thompson should be dismissed from the team. But I have a very hard time understanding how a two-game suspension in two non-conference teams that Tennessee football lost helps him at all.

Wouldn’t whatever “plan” the university has in place to help Thompson involve some sort of real consequence? I didn’t even call for taking his scholarship in this suspension. Just letting him go a year without playing football while taking anger management classes was the way to help out.

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Instead, Pruitt needs immediate help for his team. And in doing so, he may have done a disservice not just to the overall fight against violence and domestic violence but to Thompson himself. It’s hard to say he’s helping a guy with those type of anger issues when he reinstates him that quickly.