Kevin Scarbinsky wades into the Maurice Smith affair and finds — surprise! — it’s not so clear cut as to how badly Alabama has behaved.
The latest development was a contentious meeting Tuesday between Smith, his parents and Alabama coach Nick Saban. Smith’s mother, Samyra, described it to me as “a knock-down drag-out.”
Samyra Smith said she believes Saban and Alabama are doing their best to force her son to stay and play one more season for the Crimson Tide, even though the idea of forcing a disgruntled player to stick around seems counterproductive. Smith will not report for fall camp Thursday, his mom said, and will not play for Alabama this season.
She said Saban told the family Tuesday he had “penciled in” her son as a starter. She said her son responded to the coach, “Pencils have erasers.”
Alabama declined an opportunity to comment Wednesday, but it’s clear the school disagrees with Samyra Smith’s contention that it’s been stalling to keep her son on the roster.
One example: Alabama already had renewed Smith’s scholarship for the upcoming year, and there’s no stated NCAA process to rescind such a renewal. But Alabama did work with the SEC and the NCAA to rescind the renewal, which was necessary to allow Smith to meet the transfer requirements. That process was finalized within the last week, which helps open the door for Smith to transfer to any school outside the SEC.
I don’t want to say this is about two egos, because I honestly don’t think Saban operates that way. But it’s clearly devolved into a test of wills, which is something I doubt Nick Saban is used to experiencing with one of his players.
At its most basic level, transfer policy is about coach control. That’s what we’re seeing here. With this showdown, Saban is managing his roster the way Saban’s always managed his roster. Smith has some leverage as a graduate, but only so much. (And time is working against him, if coming to Georgia is his goal.)
So while I don’t think this is anything personal on Saban’s part, it’s clear that someone on Alabama’s staff has taken the coach’s hunkering down on Smith’s transfer as a green light to behave like a complete ass. The irony is, presuming the media heat continues to be dialed up, that this may wind up being the lever that sets Smith free to pursue the move of his preference. And if that happens, I’d hate to be the guy responsible for that.