As expected, the Southeastern Conference institutions approved a rules change on Friday that would allow graduate transfers — players in all sports who have earned a degree but have remaining athletic eligibility — to move from one SEC school to another without having to sit out for a year in residence.
Greg Sankey, the SEC Commissioner, said at the conclusions of the league’s annual meetings in Destin, Florida, that the proposal offered by the University of Georgia had passed by a “super-majority” by accumulating more than eight votes, although he did not identify which schools had voted for the legislation.
The SEC rationale, per league release, was that the new rule is “intended to codify an exception for intra-conference graduate transfers consistent with recently approved waivers.”
The rule could eventually impact Alabama football graduate Brandon Kennedy. The offensive lineman, who received his degree from Alabama last month, has requested a release from Alabama, which granted the request but listed several schools — the other SEC members and the nonconference schools on the 2018 UA football schedule — to which it would not release Kennedy for immediate eligibility. Kennedy, who reportedly would like to transfer to Auburn or Tennessee, appealed that decision to UA but the appeal was denied.
Alabama had no immediate comment on the vote or on Kennedy’s status, per a school spokesperson.
UA may withhold any decision or comment on Kennedy’s status until mid-June. The NCAA’s transfer working group is scheduled to meet in Indianapolis on June 11, where it is expected to present and approve a proposal to “end the practice of schools and coaches blocking an athlete from transferring or dictating where an athlete can go.”Alabama might want to see whether the proposal passes, and the effective date for its implementation, which could be as late as October.
Earlier in the week, Alabama head coach Nick Saban had indicated he wanted “clarity” from the league office, but did not indicate whether he would release Kennedy regardless of any legislative move by the SEC. Saban was against the proposal on the grounds that it would bring “free agency” to the SEC (like most coaches, Saban was more adamantly against the free transfer of all players, graduates or not, which was not part of this year’s proposal) even though he said that “we are probably one of the teams that would benefit.”
In other action taken, the league expanded an existing bylaw involving serious misconduct — defined by the league as “sexual assault, domestic violence, other forms of sexual violence, dating violence or stalking, or conduct of a nature that creates serious concern about the safety of others” — to include prospective student-athletes still in high school or junior college.