University of Tennessee baseball player Evan Russell was not in the lineup Friday for the Vols’ NCAA tournament game against Alabama State.
Prior to the game, the Tennessee baseball program announced that Russell would miss the game and that head coach Tony Vitello would address the situation following the game.
As the game between the Vols and the Hornets played out, ESPN broadcaster Troy Eklund was announcing the NCAA tournament gamebetween Missouri State and Oklahoma State and made unsubstantiated claims about Russell’s absence.
“Yeah, it was pretty crazy,” Eklund said during the broadcast. “Failed a drug test, so Evan Russell is suspended for the rest of the season.
“Tennessee is gonna have the whole resort of the team tested tomorrow, or the NCAA is. So, it’s going to be interesting to see if that’s just a one-player thing or that’s throughout that whole entire program. Performance-enhancing drugs is what it was said.”
The University of Tennessee released a statement Saturday morning saying Russell did not violate any rules and that it has been in contact with ESPN over the comments made on air.
“Evan Russell’s absence last night had nothing to do with any violation of team, NCAA or SEC rules,” Tennessee said in a statement. “We have been in contact with ESPN, and they are aware of the situation regarding last night’s comments made on their broadcast. ESPN is handling the situation, and we are expecting a public apology from them later today.”
Following Friday’s 10-0 win over Alabama State, Vitello addressed Russell’s absence, saying that the catcher was sick.
Russell has been cleared to play Saturday and is available for Tennessee’s game against Campbell, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET in Knoxville.