Upon finishing spring practice as Tennessee's No. 3 quarterback behind junior Matt Simms and freshman Tyler Bray, Nick Lamaison insists he went to the head coach to request a release from his Vol scholarship so he could transfer to another school. Lamaison says he has seen quotes from Dooley suggesting otherwise.
"There was a report in the media saying that he never met with me and I had never met with him," Lamaison said. "That's 100 percent false. I specifically remember talking to him several days after the spring game. I told him all the reasons why I wanted to transfer. I also met with my offensive coordinator (Jim Chaney) on several occasions regarding my transfer, along with my quarterback coach (Darin Hinshaw)."
Lamaison says he made his desire to leave quite clear in his post-spring practice meeting with Dooley and was surprised by the coach's response.
"He told me where we had a conflict was my personal choice of wanting a release to transfer and his organizational problem of needing depth," Lamaison said. "Basically, he wanted an emergency quarterback, and I wasn't behind that. I wanted someone who believed in me, as I thought Coach (Lane) Kiffin did when he recruited me. That's why I wanted to leave."
Lamaison also noted that there were "some off-the-field issues with family and some on-the-field factors. I didn't feel I was being treated fairly, so I had to make the decision I felt was best for me."
The player's tone throughout the telephone conversation was business-like and calm. He apparently holds no ill will toward the coaches or anyone else at Tennessee.
"I have total respect for the organization and the coaching staff," Lamaison said. "I just felt it wasn't the best situation for me. There was no bitterness or anything. I just wanted to move on. As a result of him not releasing me, I was not able to do so."
Five players have asked Dooley for releases in recent months. The coach granted releases to senior quarterback Nick Stephens and junior receiver Todd Campbell. He granted a release, with some restrictions, to sophomore offensive tackle Aaron Douglas. The coach has not granted releases to Lamaison and sophomore running back Bryce Brown.
Before taking the podium at SEC Media Days on July 23, Dooley told a group of Knoxville-area reporters that he judges each release request on its own merits.
"I can tell you this: Nothing's personal when it comes to a release," he said. "But there's a couple of things: It's the player's situation. It's how the player's handling the situation. It's how the player's hurting our organization because I do have to protect the interest of the organization."
Lamaison believes he handled his situation in a mature manner that did not hurt the organization.
"I was a bit confused on why I didn't get the release," he said. "I made sure I went to all of my classes. I went to all of my meetings. I displayed a positive attitude every day - on the field, in the weight room and in my classes. I did that so he would give me my release and it could be a speedy process, then I could transfer to another school. But it was not a speedy process and I was not granted a release."
Specifically addressing Lamaison's release request, Dooley said on July 23 that "I wish Nick had come in earlier and said, 'I don't want to play here.' I want Nick to give it a shot, and I told him that. He hasn't really really given it a chance."
Lamaison disagrees, noting: "I gave it a shot. That's exactly what I did. I didn't feel like it was the most beneficial situation for my career at that time, which I expressed to Coach Dooley."
The player said he had "several meetings with my offensive coordinator but my decision stood. I expressed that there was no way I was going to overturn my decision, that I had to do what was best for me."
Once he became convinced that Dooley would not grant him a release, Lamaison appealed to a higher authority.
"I tried to appeal to the University of Tennessee compliance office but they declined my appeal," he recalled. "It was after a very lengthy process. I felt they should've addressed the appeal much sooner than they did. They finally addressed my appeal by telephone - we never met face to face - then they declined my appeal after they deliberated about a week and half."
Upon reading Lamaison's comments, Dooley gave the following statement:
"Nick did meet with me and I never said he did not.
"He handled it in a professional way and I never said he did not.
"My reasons for denying the release were based on the consideration of the three factors outlined in the articles on Bryce -- personal investment in the program, harm to the organization caused by the departure, and how it was handled.
"There is no reason to go into any more detail than that."