Waiting on the Clearinghouse

All 26 of Florida's football signees made it through the NCAA Clearinghouse and are academically eligible to play as true freshman. Two weeks ago, LSU was awaiting word on five players. Each has been cleared. Yet, Tennessee remains in limbo about two football players and a key basketball recruit.

Frustrating is a word football coach Phillip Fulmer has used to describe the situation surrounding Gerald Williams, who's been waiting almost 18 months for approval, and Stephaun Raines.

Basketball coach Bruce Pearl can't wait to learn the fate of point guard Ramar Smith, who likely would be an immediate starter.

But the NCAA Clearinghouse works at its own pace. And that can test the patience of coaches and athletes, alike.

``It's frustrating, but I can also understand it at some level,'' said UT athletic director Mike Hamilton. ``We have nationally elite athletes who may have had academic struggles along the way, so it may actually go down to the wire for GPA or ACT or SAT purposes.''

Some prospects are allowed to take the ACT or SAT as late as June. Thus, the Clearinghouse might not review the case until mid to late August.

``It's frustrating in that you want to get those guys out on the field,'' Hamilton said. ``But you always want to make sure you do your due diligence to make sure they're prepared for the college environment.''

Hamilton said he's unsure if the NCAA needs to hire more employees to help the Clearinghouse case load. Hamilton plans to find out since he was recently named to the NCAA Academic, Eligibility and Compliance Cabinet.

One of the hot topics this summer dealt with text messaging. One cabinet member suggested doing away with text messages as a way for coaches to communicate with recruits. Hamilton disagreed.

``Excuse me, but do you have a teenager in your life?'' Hamilton asked the guy. ``If you do, you understand this is the method of communication today among the younger generation.

``For us to say we're going to deny the ability to text message is to say we're going to deny the ability to communicate with potential prospects.''

Hamilton agrees that some limits should be in place, so the committee recommended text messaging for recruiting purposes be allowed from 4-8 p.m. on Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

NEW FOOTBALL LEAGUE WOULD BENEFIT UT

The All-American Football League could be a bonanza for the Tennessee athletic department, but the goals of the organizers seem a bit ambitious.

The AAFL hopes to launch its season from April to June in 2007 and pay UT $3 million for six homes games at 102,000-seat Neyland Stadium.

Doug Dickey, former UT athletic director who is on the board for the new football league, said he hopes to attract about 50,000 fans per game.

``That would be a good start,'' Dickey said.

A good start? It'd be a miracle.

Ticket prices would be $25 each, $40 to $50 for sky box seats.

Mike Hamilton, UT's athletic director, said he heard the attendance goal was 15,000 to 20,000 per game. That's reasonable. Fifty-thousand is not.

The idea is for the Knoxville team to sign about eight to 10 former Vols, then complement the rest of the roster with players mainly from the southeast.

``We hope that would be an exciting thing for people to relate to and come and watch,'' Dickey said.

Each player must have graduated and completed his eligibility. Those restrictions would make the team a ``friendly neighbor to the university,'' Dickey said.

Each player would make about $100,000. Players would be in place by late this fall and a coach would be hired at about the same time, Dickey said. Most of the teams would be in the southeast with a couple – Purdue in particular – in the Big 10.

The league would have six to eight teams the first year with hopes of expanding to 12 to 16 teams the ensuing season.

``There are a lot of extremely good facilities that sit idle in April, May and June,'' Dickey said. ``We want something that will be beneficial to the players, to the school, to the investor and to the fans.''

A key to the league's success would be garnering a television contract. Dickey said negotiations are ongoing.

EXTRA POINTS: The dismissals of signees Lee Smith and Blake Garretson will not count against UT's APR because neither one enrolled as a full-time student for the fall semester. … Tennessee is scheduled to play four teams ranked in the top 12 and seven in the top 40. According to Sports Illustrated, the Vols will play five teams ranked among the 55 worst teams in America: No. 65 Kentucky, No. 77 Memphis, No. 90 Air Force, No. 91 Vanderbilt and No. 101 Marshall – which is the most underrated team in the SI poll. … Hamilton said the idea to add club-level seats came to him as he visited the radio broadcast booth during a UT home game in 2004. ``Looking at the field and feeling the energy of the crowd, I thought this could be phenomenal,'' Hamilton said. … Hamilton said the UT-Cal game wasn't scheduled until three years ago when Boston College asked out of a home-and-home series because it was joining the ACC. UT was to play BC in Knoxville this year and in Boston in 2007.


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