After a struggle to gain his release from Alabama to play at another SEC school, former Alabama DB Maurice Smith will be able to play football for Georgia this season.
The SEC released an official statement on Friday announcing that Smith had received a conditional waiver from the league, permitting him to transfer to Georgia “pursue a graduate degree while having the option to complete his final year of athletic eligibility in either 2016 or 2017, with provisions dependent on the achievement of Smith’s stated academic objectives should he play in 2016.”
“Graduate transfer rules were established with the intent to be grounded in the academic interests of the student-athlete,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, according to the release. “This conditional waiver permits Maurice Smith to receive financial aid to pursue his stated academic goals at the school of his choice while connecting his athletic participation directly to those goals.”
Sankey made an exception to the league’s rules in two spots, per Georgia’s request. The league generally requires that an incoming transfer have more than one year of eligibility remaining, and the other that would prohibit a player from playing at another school within the conference without first sitting out one year.
“The standard for granting waivers has been clear and compelling evidence that there is reason for allowing an exception to SEC rules,” Sankey said. “I found, among other contributing factors, that a student-athlete who graduates in three years and exhibits a strong commitment to his or her academic future provides compelling motivation to help them achieve their goals on and off the field.
”An institution has an obligation to provide opportunities for graduate student-athletes to earn a graduate degree. Similarly, student-athletes have accountability to the universities that are providing the educational opportunities they enjoy. Maurice has clearly and passionately stated his desire for a graduate degree in Public Health. The conditions of the waiver allow him to achieve that goal and provide the institution with greater incentive to make his educational interests a priority.”
If Smith plays for Georgia in 2016, which appears to be his intention, he’ll be required to complete at least nine hours of coursework to be eligible for post-season play, according to the release.
Georgia is also on the hook for him completing his coursework to graduation, per the release:
Should he fail to graduate prior to the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year, Georgia would be precluded from requesting a waiver of either the two-year eligibility requirement or the intra-conference transfer rule for a graduate transfer in football until the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year (three years) or Smith’s graduation from the graduate program, whichever comes first.