"I am really excited about Tyler Smith coming back to Tennessee," head coach Bruce Pearl said in a university release. "Our program and Tyler's situations have changed and it is clear to me that this has a chance to work out for Tyler and the University of Tennessee. I would be remiss if I did not publicly acknowledge the University of Iowa's support for Tyler and his family. Coach Todd Lickliter came into a tough situation and has allowed Tyler the opportunity to come home to be close to his family."
Pearl competed against Lickliter on an annual basis when the former was head man at Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2001-2005) and the latter was head man at Butler. The two met last Nov. 22, as well, with Lickliter's Bulldogs tripping Pearl's Vols 56-44 in the NIT Tipoff Tournament semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
Lickliter, who assumed the Iowa reins April 3 of this year, had to release Smith from his scholarship in order for the transfer to take place. That was no small gesture, since Smith enjoyed an oustanding season for the Hawkeyes in 2006-07. He led them in rebounds (4.9 per game) and steals (45), while ranking second in points (14.9 per game) and assists (111). Smith was tabbed third-team All-Big Ten and first-team Freshman All-Big Ten. He also was tabbed third-team Freshman All-America by collegehoops.net.
Tyler Smith signed with Tennessee after a terrific career at Giles County High School. When Buzz Peterson was fired at the end of the 2004-05 season, however, Tyler and his father (Billy Smith) requested a release from his UT scholarship. Pearl declined to provide one but Tyler failed to qualify for admission – effectively nullifying his Vol scholarship – and enrolled at Hargrave. After one season there, he signed with Iowa coach Steve Alford.
With Alford departing for the University of New Mexico and Billy Smith battling cancer, Tyler announced in March his plans to attend a school closer to his dad's Murfreesboro home. Tennessee, he said, was his first choice. Now that he has been accepted by the university, Tyler's career as a Vol is finally ready to commence.
"It feels great to get everything situated," he said in a statement released by the university. "It has been kind of crazy since I announced I was leaving Iowa. It is great to be back home. To be able to hop in a car on a weekend to visit my father and my family is important to me. Anytime my family needs me I am only a couple of hours away. It is a feeling of excitement to be back home."
Because of Billy Smith's poor health, UT will now file an appeal requesting the NCAA to waive the transfer rule. If the petition is successful, Tyler will be eligible immediately, rather than having to sit out the 2007-08 season.