Tennessee had announced in May that McKnight planned to play for the Volunteers during the 2014-15 season in his final year of eligibility. But the university announced Tuesday that the SEC had denied McKnight's application for a graduate transfer waiver.
''We have been informed that Eric McKnight has been denied the graduate transfer waiver by the SEC,'' Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall said in a statement released by the university. ''We pursued this issue through the proper protocol, and I respect the process. Although we are disappointed that Eric will not be joining our program, we are focused on moving forward.''
SEC associate commissioner Greg Sankey said the conference doesn't comment on waivers.
But SEC bylaws have a list of criteria for graduate transfers that includes that ''the student-athlete has not been subject to official university or athletics department disciplinary action at any time during enrollment at any previous collegiate institution (excluding limited discipline applied by a sports team).''
McKnight served a 12-game suspension at the start of last season for a violation of team rules. When Tennessee announced that McKnight planned to play for the Vols as a graduate transfer in May, FGCU coach Joe Dooley told reporters McKnight had been dismissed from FGCU's team at the end of the 2013-14 season.
Tennessee athletic department spokesman Tom Satkowiak said McKnight needed a waiver from both the SEC and NCAA to become eligible to play for the Vols this season. Satkowiak said McKnight received approval from the NCAA, but not from the SEC.
Satkowiak said the NCAA waiver was necessary because McKnight was transferring from one four-year school to another for the second time. McKnight began his college career at Iowa State before going to Florida Gulf Coast.
McKnight, a 6-foot-9 forward, averaged 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds for Florida Gulf Coast last season.
Tennessee was hoping McKnight could help fortify a frontcourt that must replace second-round draft pick Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon from a team that went 24-13 and reached an NCAA regional semifinal last season.