KNOXVILLE, Tenn. | Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin says the NCAA is investigating an eligibility problem involving freshman tailback Bryce Brown.
At issue is Brown's amateur status as a high school athlete, a person familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press. The NCAA is reviewing whether money was raised for Brown to visit colleges during his sophomore year. Tennessee was not recruiting Brown then, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
"I think it's a gigantic distraction. I think it's very unfortunate," Kiffin said in announcing the investigation after Tuesday's practice.
The investigation has nothing to do with Brown's recruitment by Tennessee or any other school or his grades, Kiffin said.
Brown was recruited out of Wichita, Kan., as one of the top high school prospects in 2009 and committed to the Volunteers after letting a scholarship offer from Miami expire.
He's spent significant time playing with the Vols' first team offense during fall camp, and Kiffin has repeatedly praised his progress.
"I think Bryce had a great last four practices before (Tuesday), capped off with a great scrimmage," Kiffin said. "He didn't have very many big holes when he was running. He made a lot out of a little, and he was extremely physical."
The investigation isn't keeping Brown from practicing with the Vols for now, though a minor hip injury has. Brown left practice on Monday after a special teams practice period, though an MRI of his hip on Tuesday morning was negative.
Brown didn't practice on Tuesday, but Kiffin said he thought the running back might be able to practice when Tennessee takes the field again on Thursday.
"He couldn't do anything (Tuesday). His hip was pretty tight," the coach said. "Hopefully (Thursday) we'll be able to get some stuff out of him."