KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt proved to be ahead of the curve on the recent NCAA rule changes involving transfers and redshirting players.
The NCAA Division I Council enacted two rules changes on Wednesday. One involves the redshirt rule, now allowing players to play up to four games in one season without losing a year of eligibility.
The other new rule prevents schools from blocking players from selecting a school of choice when transferrin.
Pruitt was in step with the NCAA on both rules before Wednesday’s action. It’s an early indication of just how in tune the Vols’ first-year head coach is with the direction of college football.
Pruitt called it
Pruitt said at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Fla., two weeks ago that he was behind the new redshirt proposal and explained why.
“I think with the limitations on how many guys you can sign, there will be certain times that people may get short on numbers at certain positions if they have a lot of injuries,” Pruitt said on May 29. “It would enable a guy like, this past year, Riley Locklear, he had to play a few games because Tennessee was short on O-linemen.
“But then he lost a year [of eligibility] because he played in three games.”
Tennessee sophomore quarterback Will McBride is in the same boat as Locklear. The new rule came one year too late for both players.
McBride was pressed into action against Southern Miss (Nov. 4) and Missouri (Nov. 11). Junior Quinten Dormady had suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, and Jarrett Guarantano twisted his ankle.
Unfortunately for players who appeared in four games or fewer the last few seasons, the rule will not apply retroactively.
Taking on Nick Saban
Pruitt was more outspoken on the graduate transfer rule this spring. He has firsthand experience, having transferred from Middle Tennessee to Alabama in 1995.
Pruitt’s much-publicized plea on behalf of graduate transfers playing immediately in the SEC flew in the face of his former boss, Nick Saban. Not surprising, it drew a great deal of attention.
The dispute was such that it could be immediately applied to Alabama backup center Brandon Kennedy.
Kennedy, a junior who has graduated and announced his intention to transfer, was recruited by Tennessee and Auburn in high school.
Saban, however, would not grant Kennedy a release to Tennessee or Auburn. Saban said he was merely following league rules.
Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer, meanwhile, came out firmly behind Pruitt and on the side of graduate transfers.
Fulmer voiced his opinion on May 30 — one day after Saban had gone on a rant at the SEC Spring Meetings, saying that allowing such transfers was akin to “free agency.”
Saban went so far as to say that Alabama would benefit from the passing of a rule that would allow graduate transfers to play immediately. Still, Saban said, he was against the rule being changed.
But the graduate transfer rule was changed, as voted on by the SEC presidents on June 1.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said the rule was modified after a “super majority” vote. Sankey said a super majority means more than eight of 14 voters were in favor of modifying the transfer policy.
No more blocks
Another new NCAA rule passed this week will prevent coaches such as Saban from blocking players who want to transfer to certain schools.
The new rule involves a so-called “notification-of-transfer” that enables a student to inform his school of a desire to transfer. The school, in turn, enters the student’s name into a national database and other schools are free to contact them.
Pruitt, as he was with the other two rules changes, was on board with the direction the NCAA ultimately took.
“Everybody that’s asked to possibly transfer from our place, we’ve offered to help them any way we possibly could,” Pruitt said. “We’ve had guys leave, and we’ve helped support them every way we could.
“Really, who am I to stand in the way of somebody transferring?”