Family Matters

Warren ready for hardships for transfer to Tennessee

Photo with no caption
By Stefan Cooper
Sports Editor
Blount Today

A son hears things in his mother’s voice no one else can.

When his mom, Deidre, was too sick to make it down for the Florida game, Brandon Warren decided to act.

The former Alcoa High School star withdrew from classes at Florida State a month later and is hoping to one day resume his college football career at Tennessee. When that will be, with Florida State denying his request for a release from the
National Letter of Intent he signed a year ago, remains in question.

NCAA transfer rules mandate a year away from competition when transferring from one Division I program to another. Without a release from Florida State, Warren would be ineligible for any athletic financial aid from Tennessee during that
time frame.

By leaving Tallahassee midterm, Warren violated the terms of his National Letter of Intent, triggering a "basic penalty" contained within the document of a year away from competition, along with the loss of a year’s eligibility.

The NCAA and the National Letter of Intent program, administered by the Collegiate Commissioners Association, are separate entities.

Warren is appealing Florida State’s decision not to release him.

"He’s going to sit a year no matter what, right off the bat, no matter where he goes," said a source with knowledge of NCAA and NIL transfer rules.

There are academic concerns as well, which Warren will attempt to address by enrolling at Pellissippi State Technical Community College later this month. Regardless of the varying scenarios, he’s determined to become a Volunteer, Warren said. Whatever hardships lie ahead, they’re worth it.

Raised in a single-parent household, "My mom is all I’ve ever known," he said.

Deidre Warren had a cancerous kidney removed in 2005, Brandon’s senior year at Alcoa. Her recovery was kept in check with medication, but the side effects of the regimen were soon a concern, Warren said. It’s why he went back and forth between Tennessee and the Seminoles during recruiting. Florida State, to whom he’d verbally committed, was the team of his childhood dreams, but the Vols were closer to home.

From the day he arrived in Tallahassee last fall, Warren said he couldn’t escape feeling he’d made the wrong decision.

"When I got to school, I realized I’d made a commitment to Florida State," he said. "My mom wanted me to honor my commitment. She wanted the best for me, but she couldn’t control how I felt."

Warren’s first season at Florida State was a rousing success by all accounts, with the state’s former Mr. Football securing freshman All-American honors at year’s end. Each trip home, though, Warren said he grew more concerned.

"When I would come in and out of state, I could tell," he said. "She’d be lying on the couch. She was losing weight.

"She looked sick. I could tell."

The Seminoles met in-state rival Florida Nov. 25, a game Deidre was scheduled to attend. When she didn’t show, Warren’s sister, then also a Florida State student, withdrew from classes in Tallahassee at the end of the semester. Prior to Florida State’s appearance in the Dec. 28 Emerald Bowl in San Francisco, Warren said he went to Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden and told the coaching icon of his concerns.

"I told him (Bowden) she didn’t look too well," Warren said.

The former All-State tight end said he also talked with Seminoles assistant coach John Lilly, who’d lost his father to cancer. He also confided in a few of his Florida State teammates.

"They (his Seminole teammates) were disappointed, but, at the same time, they knew where I was coming from," Warren said. "I had been dealing with this from the time I got down there. They knew we had a good relationship. They
understood."

When the Seminoles returned from San Francisco, Warren said he went to see the team chaplain. After the holidays, he said his mother convinced him to return to Florida State for the spring semester.

As soon as he returned, however, he said knew his days as a Seminole were over. He phoned Bowden.

"I asked if I could come up and meet with him," Warren said. "I went up to his office. I told him I’ve been dealing with a lot. I told him I feel like I need to be closer to my mom and my family. He didn’t understand, ‘Why?’"

Warren said he was immediately informed Florida State "wouldn’t release me and would never consider releasing me."

On Feb. 6, after first making sure he was withdrawn from classes, Warren returned to Alcoa with a family member.

Florida State has a history of releasing players during Bowden’s tenure. Only institutions - not coaches - can grant an athlete a release from a National Letter of Intent or scholarship. A Florida State faculty panel recently denied an appeal from Warren requesting a release, citing: "It is the determination of the faculty panel that the information presented by Brandon Warren does not rise to the level of ‘objective evidence that proves the student-athlete’s extraordinary personal hardship’ and is insufficient to support his appeal of the NCAA and FSU’s transfer policy.

"Panel members were unanimous in their conclusions that the appeal should be denied and the NCAA transfer rule should be enforced."

Speculation as to why Warren’s case has become so contentious at Florida State centers around former Alcoa Tornado and Tennessee signee Rae Sykes.

Warren served as the player host for Sykes during a recruiting visit to Tallahassee prior to national signing day. Soon after, Warren withdrew from Florida State, with Sykes later signing with Tennessee.

Warren enacted a media moratorium after returning, one that has only fanned the flames concerning his intentions. The melodrama that has ensued has reached national proportions.

"We’ve got ESPN on speed-dial," Deidre Warren said.

For now, Warren said he’ll attend Pellissippi State, with hopes of enrolling at Tennessee come fall. His progress at Pellissippi will have much to say on whether he gets there.

By leaving midterm, Warren did not satisfy the academic requirement of 24 credit hours during a school year. Those requirements must first be met before becoming eligible for athletics at his next school.

Failing to do so could trigger scenarios that could keep Warren out of a Tennessee uniform - or that of any other NIL member institution - for longer than the mandated year after transferring.

There’s also the matter of the NCAA’s ticking clock.

Student-athletes are given five years to play four the moment they enroll at a four-year institution. The time is fixed, whether a student-athlete is currently enrolled or not. In Warren’s case, without the release from the National Letter of Intent, he’ll enter his next school with three years to play two seasons, providing academic concerns are met this summer.

Without permission from Florida State, Tennessee coaches are prohibited from any contact with Warren until such time as he enrolls in Knoxville.

The road ahead is going to be a tough one, Warren said, but he’s ready for the challenge.

"I’m going to be a Vol," he said. "I’m just going to enroll and go from there."

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