BIRMINGHAM – It’s a different offseason but a similar question facing Nick Saban. The Alabama coach was asked Wednesday at the Regions Tradition Pro-Am whether he thinks graduate-transfer football players should be able to move from one school to another in the SEC without penalty.
Saban cited the SEC rule that prevents graduate transfers within the conference from playing immediately unless they receive a waiver.
“We have an SEC rule about do we want to have free agency within our conference, and I think there are certain circumstances and situations where it may be better for the student-athlete,” Saban said. “In those cases, I would be supportive of guys doing it. I’ve done it in the past and I’ve not done it in the past.
“But I do think that this whole transfer thing is something that we should look at more from a thousand feet.”
AL.com previously reported that Alabama offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy was interested in heading to Auburn or Tennessee as a graduate transfer. Alabama blocked him from transferring to other schools within the conference and seven programs on the Crimson Tide’s nonconference schedule during Kennedy’s two remaining years of eligibility, according to the report.
Alabama was at the center of another debate about graduate transfers before the 2016 season. Defensive back Maurice Smith sought to transfer to Georgia that season. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey eventually granted Smith a waiver to transfer within the conference after Alabama released him from his scholarship.
“We don’t like to get put in the middle of these rules as coaches,” Saban said. “None of us do. We have rules, and we’re supposed to abide by the rules and it reflects poorly on us when we try to support the rules that we have.
“The rules that we have, we have for a reason. I just stated the reason: Do we want free agency in the SEC? Should guys be able to leave your team and go play for somebody else next year that you have to play against? I do feel that there are cases where that may be a viable option, if it’s for academic reasons.”
The SEC tabled a proposal during spring meetings in 2017 that would have allowed graduate transfers within the conference to play immediately without receiving a waiver. The topic may come up again later this month when the league coaches and administrators meet in Destin, Florida.
“I think it’s a hot topic on a national basis, and I think something is going to happen,” Saban said. “I don’t really know what. If the rule changes, then I don’t even have a clue what it might be or what it might change to.”
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said whether graduate transfers should be allowed within the conference “depends on the situation.”
“The grad transfer is kind of a new deal, there’s no doubt about that,” Malzahn said. “I think each school kind of has their own policies and opinions and everything that goes with it.”
The Regions Tradition begins on Thursday at Greystone Golf and Country Club and runs through Sunday.
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.