Tennessee needs to find out who Bryce Thompson really is

John Adams
  • Starting cornerback Bryce Thompson was suspended indefinitely after his arrest on a misdemeanor domestic assault charge.
  • Tennessee needs to investigate Thompson's history before reinstating him, John Adams writes.

Jeremy Pruitt did the right thing Monday.

But the Tennessee football coach really didn’t have a choice after starting cornerback Bryce Thompson was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor domestic assault Saturday night.

“Bryce Thompson is suspended indefinitely while the process continues,” Pruitt said in a statement. “We hold our student-athletes to a high standard. The safety of all students is our first priority here at Tennessee.”

He didn’t take more questions on the subject at Monday’s weekly press conference, five days before Tennessee's season opener. That’s not surprising.

Nonetheless, the first question of the press conference had to be asked: Does Pruitt believe Thompson poses a danger to other students?

That’s what Tennessee needs to find out. And you don’t do that in a matter of hours. You might need weeks.

The charge of misdemeanor domestic assault is serious enough. But two witnesses told police they heard a man who was yelling at a woman threaten to “shoot up the school,” according to the arrest report.

In light of the recent mass shootings, police are trained to take such threats seriously, as they should. Campus officials should do the same.

Thompson told a woman he was in a relationship with that he would “slap the (expletive) out of you,” witnesses told police. That's one thing. But even in a heated argument, can you imagine someone saying he was going to “shoot up the school?”

At best, that’s an incredibly stupid and insensitive comment. It also could reflect a state of mind.

Again, that’s something Tennessee should find out. You can't don’t do that by just making a couple of phone calls.

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The woman he is accused of threatening told police Thompson “has a bad temper and punched walls during past arguments.”

The logical question: Does he have a history of violence toward women? If so, did Tennessee know as much when it recruited him?

Tennessee officials can start the investigative process by conferring with South Carolina officials. Thompson, who is from Irmo, South Carolina, originally committed to the Gamecocks but ended up not signing with them. Maybe South Carolina knows more about Thompson than Tennessee does.

Perhaps such an investigation will show Thompson has no history of violence. Tennessee can’t assume that, though. It has to get the facts.

And until it does, Thompson shouldn't be on the team or representing the university.

As Pruitt said, “We hold our student-athletes to a high standard.”

He didn't just say that. He backed up his words with action. He suspended Thompson indefinitely. And “indefinitely” probably means more than a season opener against a vastly outmanned opponent.

Tennessee now needs to do more thorough research than what schools generally do in the recruiting process. After all, this is about much more than football.

It’s about the safety of your student body.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or Follow him at: