KNOXVILLE -- Derek Dooley needed less than 48 hours to finishing gathering information.
And Tennessee's football coach didn't bother waiting for the legal process to play out.
Dooley dismissed Cameron Clear from the Volunteers on Friday after the sophomore tight end was arrested Tuesday afternoon and charged with felony theft.
"It hurts any time a player is dismissed from the program, but there comes a time when a player's actions dictate that his privilege of being part of this team should be removed," Dooley said in UT's release. "We will continue to support Cam and his family to help him learn from his actions and become the person and player I believe he has the potential to be."
UT police caught the 19-year-old Clear on Tuesday in possession of a laptop that had been reported missing by Vols baseball player Brandon Zajac from Walker Valley after Clear was detected logging into the university's wireless network, according to the UTPD arrest report. The Memphis native closed the computer at the sight of UT police officer Ben Doty, but he was taken into custody and released from the Knox County Detention Facility late Tuesday night after his $2,500 bond was posted.
Dooley suspended Clear indefinitely Wednesday, and the coach said at the Big Orange Caravan stop in Chattanooga that night that he had yet to complete the process of gathering all the necessary information. He apparently reached that point Friday morning, even though the legal process remains ongoing. Clear has a court date set for next Friday.
"I've never made my decisions on what our discipline should be on the legal process," Dooley said Wednesday night. "It's certainly an impact -- it's a factor. But I've disciplined guys that I felt were wrong even though the legal process didn't say it, and I've defended some guys who, legally, maybe they weren't right and I defended them from another standpoint. It's case by case."
This week's incident might not have been the first with Clear. UT and the Knoxville Police Department investigated a string of thefts of items in dorm rooms in Gibbs Hall on UT's campus. Though a source inside the football program told the Times Free Press that Clear had stolen at least one item from a teammate, no arrests were made, and the matter may have been handled internally.
According to the original UTPD incident report, six UT baseball players reported burglaries in three dorm rooms, though the report didn't list what was stolen or any suspects.
Clear is the first player dismissed from UT's program since safety Janzen Jackson last August. He was the first Vol arrested since linebacker Austin Johnson was taken into custody and charged with public intoxication and disorderly conduct in late July. Dooley booted safety Darren Myles and dealt with the infamous Bar Knoxville brawl before even coaching a game, and Clear became the fourth player arrested since that summer.
"When you're talking about shaping a culture and developing a culture, it doesn't mean you have 120 guys that never do anything wrong," Dooley said Wednesday night. "The culture is about what the body of work over time looks like. It's about what the attitude and the perception of the people who work around our players get and how they represent Tennessee.
"But it doesn't mean you're never going to be without incident. That's ultimately our goal. But when you're shaping young people, you have to be prepared when things happen."
From a football standpoint, Clear's loss is significant because the 6-foot-6, 283-pounder possessed a rare combination of size and athleticism. After catching just one pass as a freshman, Clear figured to have an expanded role this season behind Mychal Rivera, who caught 29 passes for 344 yards last season.
Brendan Downs, a 6-foot-5, 251-pound sophomore, figures to be the biggest beneficiary of his departure.
Downs caught three passes last season before Clear passed him on the depth chart and had a four-catch, 51-yard performance in the Vols' spring game.
"Brendan's had a great spring," Dooley said after the game. "I think nobody talks about Brendan Downs. He has a lot of good qualities: He's big, he's fast, he's physical."
Former fullback Ben Bartholomew worked some in the spring with UT's tight ends. The Vols moved their tight ends around to various spots on the field, including on the line, in the backfield and split out wide. After enrolling in school in January, freshman tight end Justin Meredith missed most of spring practice with a lingering hamstring injury.
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...