FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said Wednesday that he is opposed to players transferring from one SEC school to another, and clarified that his opinion applies to graduate transfers.
The issue has received some attention recently as Alabama coach Nick Saban has refused to allow safety Maurice Smith to transfer to Georgia. Smith graduated from the University of Alabama last week and, per NCAA rules, would be eligible to play immediately at another school with Saban’s blessing.
Bielema said that he’s more than happy to assist transferring players find a new home, but that he’s uncomfortable with the idea of his guys transferring within the SEC.
“I just think it opens up a box that you don’t necessarily wanna dive in to,” Bielema said.
He cited personal experience in this area with the example of safety Kim Royston, who transferred from Wisconsin to Minnesota while Bielema was the Badgers’ head coach.
Bielema never gave Royston a release to join Minnesota’s program, but Royston — who was from Minneapolis — enrolled at Minnesota before the 2008 season anyway. Because of Big Ten rules, he was unable to receive a scholarship with the Golden Gophers.
Referring to players like Willie Sykes and Denzell Evans — both of whom have left Arkansas in recent months — Bielema said, “I called a lot of schools trying to help those guys. I get involved.”
He also noted that in the case of Sykes — a safety who transferred to Texas Tech — Bielema was allowing a player to now play for a coach in Kliff Kingsbury with whom he’s had a well-publicized feud.
“For Christ’s sake, look at Texas Tech,” Bielema said. “That’s probably the one guy that I don’t, you know, break bread with on an annual basis and I was more than happy to call (Tech defensive coordinator David Gibbs). I kinda joked with Gibby that I wanted a formal apology from Kliff, but I was just joking.”
Bielema said one reason he’s opposed to transfers within the SEC is that there are some things you don’t want other conference schools to know about the inner-workings of your program.
His opinion extends to graduate transfers, he said, because these days, those players are graduating with two years of eligibility left. Bielema knows that because Texas graduate transfer and offensive lineman Jake Raulerson joined the Razorbacks this offseason with two years left to play.
“He’s just like a juco player, except obviously he’s got a degree in his hands,” Bielema said.