This happened to me over 30 years ago. I signed a letter of intent, and in early June (I had a 4:09 mile as a 12th grader to win one of the then three big post season high school races), was told by the coach that the school, one of the best academic schools which gave athletic scholarships, were not honoring my signed letter of intent. This was after turning down numerous other schools. I was poor,a single mother kid, and obviously naive as to how tenuous and risky athletic scholarships were for a young athlete. I am not sure what happened, but I got a call back a few days later saying we made a mistake. I never really figured out what happened, but the best I could discern was that the Chancellor, a powerful, assertive, tough and often abrasive guy (who I ended up respecting enormously if not necessarily liking) stepped in and was very upset at treating a young person poorly. I was a young idiot - and did not realize that going where I was not really wanted was a dumb idea. I stayed. Of course, I could not see sitting out a year at the time, although I certainly could have done so - I had other options if I was willing to wait a year.
The sum of this is that athletic scholarships are simply not a good deal for
serious students. No matter what lip service athletic departments pay to academics, if on athletic scholarship, an athlete is an academic department employee, and even if an athlete manages to obtain good grades, the athletic scholarship makes it really difficult to grab all of the available academic resources out of the school. I tell parents this all the time - they think I am bitter - I am not - I am appreciative of my experience - but look, these are one sided deals, these NCAA scholarships.
The problem that Beth Alford Sullivan has is now a PR one. It is not like Tennessee is the Ivy or a top 20 school. Paying for out of state tuition is not a good value, and her actions make the value proposition in a minor sport less than scintillating.