So much for a football future in doubt in Knoxville. Just days after Tennessee learned wide receiver Von Pearson will not face charges following a rape allegation, the program has welcomed him back to the team by announcing his reinstatement Friday afternoon.
Tennessee placed Pearson on an indefinite suspension after allegations were made against the Vols receiver in April. As previously reported, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said the university had suspended Pearson as well while the legal process continued to play out. Earlier this week a district attorney decided there was insufficient evidence in the case to sustain a criminal prosecution against Pearson. With that decision made, Tennessee saw it appropriate to cease the suspension.
Pearson was Tennessee’s second-leading receiver last fall with 393 yards and a team-high five touchdowns last season.
One member of the Tennessee football program received some positive news Wednesday afternoon, although he still has hurdles to clear before returning to the playing field.
Multiple media outlets are reporting that the Knox County district attorney’s office has decided Von Pearson won’t face charges after being named as a suspect in a rape investigation. “After a thorough review of the investigation, I have decided there is insufficient evidence to sustain a criminal prosecution against Von Pearson,” DA Charme Allen said in a statement.
Allen’s statement also details the events leading up to today’s announcement.
“On the morning of April 24, 2015, the Knoxville Police Department opened an investigation into an allegation of sexual assault that reportedly occurred at an apartment complex in Fort Sanders. Von Pearson eventually emerged as a potential suspect during the police investigation. The police department’s investigation is complete, and I have reviewed the entire investigation file to determine if a criminal investigation is appropriate.”
Pearson was indefinitely suspended shortly after the allegations surfaced. Head coach Butch Jones stated earlier this week that the wide receiver was also suspended from school.
That school issue, a student-conduct one, leaves Pearson’s future with the Vols in doubt even as he won’t face criminal charges.
A UT official confirmed that, despite today’s development, Pearson’s status with both the team and the university remains unchanged. How soon Pearson, the Vols’ second-leading receiver last season, could see a resolution one way or the other is another unknown.
Because of Pearson’s case as well as a case involving two former Vols football players, the university is currently the subject of a federal sexual violence investigation.
Tennessee wide receiver Von Pearson is a suspect in an alleged rape investigation in Knoxville, the Knoxville Police Department said Friday afternoon. Pearson has not been charged with any crimes at this time, and the police are currently investigating the story.
According to The Knoxville News Sentinel, the incident in question was reported early Friday morning and police have interviewed the alleged victim and several potential witnesses. Police have already contacted the Sexual Assault Center as the investigation gets underway.
Pearson was Tennessee’s second-leading receiver last fall behind Pig Howard. Pearson recorded 393 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 11 games.
This is not the first time this spring a Tennessee player has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons. Earlier this month offensive lineman Coleman Thomas had a felony theft charge dismissed. Former defensive lineman Michael Sawyers was soon charged with the same offense. Sawyers was actually dismissed from the team in February by head coach Butch Jones for a violation of team rules.
Tennessee’s spring game is scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Given this recent report, it may be safe to assume Pearson will not participate in it as the legal process plays out. At this time, Tennessee has not issued any statement on the situation or Pearson’s status with the program.
UPDATE (6:27 p.m.): Tennessee has suspended Pearson from all team activities.
Tennessee has a very bright future ahead of it heading into the offseason after wrapping up the year with an inspiring win over Iowa, but one wide receiver will be out of the mix when spring practices open up later this year. Drae Bowles, a redshirt sophomore has transferred out of the program after enrolling at UT-Chattanooga today. Stephen Higgins of the Times Free Press reported the news via Twitter.
Because he is moving to a school playing at the FCS level, Bowles will be eligible to play right away in 2015 for Chattanooga.
Tennessee looks to be pretty deep at wide receiver in 2015. All five leading receivers from 2014, including Pig Howard, Von Pearson and Marquez North are all slated to return to Knoxville in 2015, so playing time for Bowles may have been scarce at best. He appeared in two games this season but did not record any receiving stats. He also played on special teams for the Vols.
Tennessee is home to one of the largest stadiums in the country. Neyland Stadium holds over 100,000 fans, which can be pretty intimidating for a young player who has never experienced that sort of environment. On Saturday the Vols opened up a practice for fans to enjoy in Neyland Stadium, and 40,000 fans showed up.
”At my junior college, we only had about 200 people at the games,” wide receiver Von Pearson said, per the Associated Press. ”And this is only practice.”
This was the second straight year Tennessee opened a fall camp practice to the public. The open practice is an eye-opening experience for the recruiting class, which was regarded as one of the top recruiting classes in the country. Rivals ranked the Tennessee class fifth in the nation, and nearly half was able to be a part of the spring game for their first glimpse at playing in Neyland Stadium. The other 18 members of the recruiting class got their first taste of playing in front of fans at Neyland Stadium on Saturday.
“It was amazing,” freshman linebacker Dillon Bates said. “I definitely had those butterflies coming in, but that was good, you never get those anywhere else. That’s the greatest feeling in the world. To come out of the tunnel to all the fans just to watch a practice, just to show how important this team is to the community, to Vol Nation, it was great to see this turnout.”
Tennessee will open the 2014 season at home in front of a significantly larger crowd on August 31. Utah State and Chuckie Keeton will be the opponent in ne of the more intriguing match-ups of the first weekend of the season.