DESTIN, Fla. – SEC schools voted to shorten penalties that could prevent its athletics programs from accepting graduate transfers. But the league did not adopt all of the proposals that would have opened the league up to graduate transfers.
SEC schools will now only receive a one-year ban on accepting graduate transfers if a previous transfer doesn’t meet academic requirements. The old rule had included a three-year ban. That would have prevented Florida from accepting Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire.
“Let’s be careful that we’re not making decisions based on an individual,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said. “We’re making decisions based on what is an informed policy for the conference.”
Some other programs had received a ban other than Florida, but relatively few, Sankey said.
Under the previous rule, Florida’s football program would not have been permitted to accept graduate transfers from 2016-18. Two graduate transfers during the 2015 season did not meet their academic requirements, which brought about a ban for the Gators.
“We want universities that accept graduate transfers, the universities is a partner as that young person pursues their eligibility during each term of enrollment,” Sankey said. “We’ve had success with that. The change is about how many years they should forgo that opportunity as a team at that university if that young person doesn’t meet those expectations.”
The SEC had been an outlier among conferences with its three-year ban. Sankey said he wasn’t aware of any other conference that had a similar ban.
“When the three-year (ban) got put in, it was early on in the grad transfer process,” Florida athletics director Scott Stricklin said. “There were some high-profile situations that we were probably overreacting to and we probably overreacting. Enough time has passed, it seems wise to step back and get in line with what other leagues are doing.”
Florida coach Jim McElwain didn’t discuss Zaire specifically earlier in the week, but was in favor of shortening the penalty period. He said he wanted the SEC’s rules for graduate transfers to be more consistent with other conferences.
“I know what I think is good for our conference and what’s good for college football is what I’m all about,” he said.
Alabama has utilized graduate transfers with significant success in recent years. Quarterback Jake Coker and wide receiver Richard Mullaney helped the Crimson Tide win a national championship in 2015. Receiver Gehrig Dieter arrived from Bowling Green State and was a contributor in 2016.
But graduate transfers were also a burr that annoyed Alabama coach Nick Saban last offseason. Defensive back Maurice Smith received a waiver from the conference to play immediately at Georgia after a public battle.
The SEC tabled legislation that would have allowed intra-conference graduate transfers to play immediately without a waiver. Graduate transfers from one SEC school to another will still have to sit out a year unless the league grants the student-athlete a waiver.
Saban said earlier in the week that he was opposed to opening up the graduate transfer rule within the conference.
“I’ve never been in favor of free agency in our league,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a good thing. I wasn’t for it last year. I don’t think I’ll ever be for it. I mean, why should guys leave your team and go play for somebody else and you have to play against them?”
The league also passed legislation that allows graduate transfers who have not earned all of their APR points.
“That’s a recognition that graduation is the goal, that one might have a difficult semester but still earn an undergraduate degree,” Sankey said. “We’re going to honor the undergraduate degree.”
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