Why Tennessee needs to dismiss Bryce Thompson from its football team

John Adams

Tennessee should dismiss starting cornerback Bryce Thompson from the team immediately. The evidence against keeping him on the football team has become overwhelming.

Coach Jeremy Pruitt announced Monday that the sophomore from Irmo, South Carolina, had been suspended indefinitely after he was arrested Saturday on a charge of misdemeanor domestic assault. Witnesses told police that Thompson told a woman with whom he was in a relationship that he would “slap the (expletive) out of you.”

Also, witnesses said they heard a man who was yelling at a woman threaten to “shoot up the school.”

The threat is alarming, and perhaps justification enough for dismissal. Pruitt’s response was more measured but made sense. Hence, the suspension, while Tennessee gathers more facts.

More facts became available Tuesday.

Another woman, who also had a relationship with Thompson, filed a restraining order against him in January 2018 in Richland County, South Carolina. Thompson and the woman agreed to a mutual, one-year restraining order.

The words in the restraining order, obtained by the News Sentinel, are chilling.

Tennessee cornerback Bryce Thompson was arrested Saturday night on charges of domestic assault.

The complainant said Thompson texted her and wrote that if she dated another man, he “would kill both me and that other guy.” She also wrote that Thompson had slapped her, choked her and “thrown me around.”

Now, UT doesn’t have just one disturbing incident involving Thompson. It has a pattern of alleged violence against women, which has become a hot-button issue on college campuses.

Then, you have witnesses saying Thompson’s threatened to “shoot up the school.” That’s too much evidence to keep Thompson on the team, no matter how good of a player he is. And he was good enough to start last season as a freshman.

As Pruitt pointed out in Monday’s statement about Thompson, “We hold our student-athletes to a high standard. The safety of all student-athletes is our first priority at Tennessee.”

Thompson hasn’t met that standard. He also puts the university at risk.

Tennessee defensive back Bryce Thompson (20) walks off the field during a game between Tennessee and Missouri at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee on Saturday, November 17, 2018.

There are allegations of two cases related to violence again women. What if UT keeps him on the team and there’s a third incident?

Then, Tennessee would be culpable.

Given Thompson’s background, you might wonder why Tennessee recruited him. UT might not have known about the restraining order, though. It’s not as though restraining orders are broadcast to the general populace.

And don’t forget, Thompson was a talented high school player, a four-star recruit that other teams wanted, too.

He committed to Virginia Tech and South Carolina before eventually signing with Tennessee. Did those programs know something that UT didn’t?

If this much information has come to light about Thompson’s past in a couple of days, it’s reasonable to assume there could be more forthcoming. But UT already has enough information for a decision.

It can’t afford to keep him on its football team.  

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