Sister of new Tennessee commit Trey Smith began working for Vols football five months ago

Sister of new Tennessee commit Trey Smith began working for Vols football five months ago

Outside The Box

Sister of new Tennessee commit Trey Smith began working for Vols football five months ago

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University School of Jackson senior Trey Smith points to a University of Tennessee cap after choosing the school to commit to, Tuesday afternoon.

University School of Jackson senior Trey Smith points to a University of Tennessee cap after choosing the school to commit to, Tuesday afternoon.

Trey Smith is arguably the nation’s top offensive line prospect (and a top-5 prospect by all services), and his commitment to Tennessee on Tuesday was hardly earth shattering given his high school career in Jackson, Tennessee. Yet, there’s another reason why his decision to play at Tennessee has been gathering some extra attention: His older sister has been working in the Tennessee football department since this summer.

Our Nashville-based Gannett partner The Tennessean first noted that Trey Smith’s sister, Ashley, was employed by Tennessee coach Butch Jones over the summer, just months before her five-star recruit brother was set to commit to a college. If that seems like a potential conflict of interest to you, well, perhaps it could be.

Yet, as The Big Lead noted, there are critical mitigating circumstances which should keep Tennessee in the clear, even if Ashley’s presence may have helped sway her brother’s final decision:

  1. Ashley Smith went to Tennessee and graduated from Tennessee
  2. Ashley Smith worked on the compliance staff of the Tennessee women’s basketball team.
  3. Ashley Smith previously worked for the NCAA.

Of course, the fact that Tennessee has perfectly plausible justifications for hiring Trey Smith’s sister as an executive assistant to the football coach just months before Trey himself committed to the school doesn’t necessarily mean that the Vols will escape further curiosity, skepticism and concern about whether the program had ulterior motives. The school moved quickly to address some of those concerns in the days after Smith’s commitment, particularly in interviews in a piece from our Gannett sister publication, the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

“I understand people might try to connect the dots, but I think once you see what she brings to our department they would understand why we hired her,” Tennessee spokesman Ryan Robinson told the News Sentinel. “She is doing an outstanding job and I think she has a bright future in college athletics. I know she has high aspirations.

“She actually applied for the director of recruiting job earlier this year and was not qualified for it. But Ashley really wanted to come back to Tennessee and applied for this job. We felt like she was the best fit.”

University School of Jackson senior lineman Trey Smith made his commitment to The University of Tennessee, Tuesday afternoon, December 6, 2016 during a live broadcast at USJ. At left is his sister, Ashley Smith. (Photo: KENNETH CUMMINGS/The Jackson Sun)

University School of Jackson senior lineman Trey Smith made his commitment to The University of Tennessee, Tuesday afternoon, December 6, 2016 during a live broadcast at USJ. At left is his sister, Ashley Smith. (Photo: KENNETH CUMMINGS/The Jackson Sun)

Tennessee also released Ashley Smith’s salary as part of the inquiries into her employment, announcing that she is compensated $50,000 per year, a $5,000 decrease from Keith Pantling, who was previously in her position.

Regardless of whether there was any hidden impropriety or not, there is a potential silver lining of Schadenfreude for Tennessee haters, too: Won’t it be awkward if, hypothetically, Ashley Smith eventually has to document some reason why her brother is ineligible or out of a game for a violation of team rules? Sure would make the Thanksgiving dinner table a pretty awkward place.

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