Wingate is the third scholarship basketball player connected with marijuana possession and/or use in the past nine months. It all started in August of 2005, when senior post Jemere Hendrix was charged with possessing marijuana and driving without a license near his hometown of Covington, Ga. He was suspended by head coach Bruce Pearl for that violation, then dismissed a month later following an on-campus fight with football player Daniel Brooks.
In March, just about time the Vols were concluding a surprising 22-8 season, transfer Tony Passley was charged with marijuana possession when police found roughly three ounces of pot in his pocket. In addition, Passley was sitting with walk-on teammate Jordan Smith in a car that contained 15 grams of crack cocaine. Both players were suspended, pending the outcome of their legal battles.
Wingate's failed drug test occurred about two months after Passley's arrest.
"I feel badly for Major, but the truth is that there's a culture that's been allowed to exist here that's got to stop and will stop," Pearl told The Tennessean. "The next step is dismissing players, and we'll do that if we have to. I don't care who it is."
The reference to "a culture that's been allowed to exist here" could be viewed as a slap at former Vol head coaches Jerry Green and Buzz Peterson. Green signed two players (Harris Walker and Terrence Woods) who ultimately were dismissed by Peterson following failed substance tests. Then Peterson signed Hendrix as a transfer from Clemson and signed Wingate as a high school senior.
Passley, however, was a Pearl recruit.