DESTIN, Fla. — Alabama coach Nick Saban tackled the emerging graduate transfer issue in the SEC on Tuesday, making the case that he’s merely in favor of enforcing the current rule.
The controversy sprung up earlier this month when Crimson Tide backup center Brandon Kennedy announced plans to transfer and expressed interest in two league schools that recruited him out of high school, Tennessee and Auburn.
The current SEC policy is that players must sit out a year if they elect to transfer within the league if they are not granted a release, unless they are granted a waiver by the league office.
The issue will be among many coaches and athletic directors discuss this week at the SEC Spring Meetings.
Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt and Vols athletic director Phillip Fulmer have been vocal that they believe if a player has graduated and is in good standing, they should have the freedom to transfer wherever they wish without penalty.
Saban appeared irritated that his decision to block Kennedy has had a bad look to it.
“If we agree in the SEC at these meetings that we’re going to have free agency in our league and everybody can go wherever they want to go when they graduate, and that’s what’s best for the game, then I think that’s what we should do,” Saban said Tuesday.
“Then Brandon Kennedy can go wherever he wants to go. But if we don’t do that, why is it on me?”
Saban had the same issue a couple of years ago with defensive back Maurice Smith, who transferred to Georgia in 2016.
Smith was ultimately granted a release, but he told the Read Optional it was a difficult process.
“It was, from start to finish, another power struggle,” Smith told the Read Optional. “Coach Saban had so much power, and he didn’t agree with the rule. Most of the time we met with the Southeastern Conference, it was a one-sided deal. It was like: ‘It’s your word vs. his, and your word means nothing.’ For a long period of time, it felt pointless.”
Saban said Tuesday “The Maurice Smith thing wasn’t on me either.”
Indeed, Alabama’s championship coach said the Crimson Tide would likely benefit if the current rule would change.
“I think that (transfer policy) is something we should address as a league and, to be honest, if we allow that to happen in our league, it will benefit some schools more than others,” Saban said, “and I think we’re one of the schools it would benefit. But I still am not for it.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart said that “philosophically” he supports players who have graduated going where they want without repercussion.
But, Smart points out, there could be other issues to deal with if the SEC changes its rule.
“I would certainly be concerned about people trying to recruit seniors,” Smart said. “I don’t know how you would police that …. I’m not for that, allowing them to be actively recruited.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban from Destin, Fla.
Alabama coach Nick Saban from Destin
Posted by SEC Country on Tuesday, May 29, 2018