Is there a difference between hair-splitting and hypocrisy?

This may have been lost in the shuffle of Saturday’s open practice, but Kirby Smart upped the stakes in the Maurice Smith saga with this:

Kirby Smart never mentioned his former mentor’s name, but he has now officially broken with Nick Saban.

Asked on Saturday about Maurice Smith, Smith said that if a player graduated from Georgia and wanted to transfer, he would let him do so without restrictions – even in the SEC.

“Absolutely,” Smart said.

That’s a direct difference from how Alabama is handling defensive back Maurice Smith, who graduates today and is seeking a transfer to Georgia. But Alabama is not releasing him, citing SEC bylaws, though it permitted another player (Chris Black) to transfer after last season to Missouri.

Cry hypocrisy!, proclaims Kevin Scarbinsky.

As everyone knows by now, Saban and Alabama are blocking defensive back Maurice Smith from transferring to Georgia to play for the Bulldogs this season as a grad transfer.

As we also know, Smart somehow neglected to mention his beneficent belief in an exception for grad transfers back in March when he outlined his own restrictive Saban-like policy that “we will not release kids to SEC schools unless it’s a special situation.”

What’s a rivalry without a little hypocrisy?

Smart also voiced his support then for doing exactly what Saban’s doing here, preventing a player from following a former coach. Smart was Smith’s coordinator at Alabama, and new UGa defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was Smith’s position coach.

Nice to see how much privilege Smart believes that undergrad degree should buy you.

Saturday’s question about Smith’s desire to move from Alabama to Georgia gave Smart the opening to show current and potential future Bulldogs how much he’s willing to put their interests first. As opposed to, say, a certain dictatorial SEC West coach with five national titles.

The shot at Saban was unspoken but unmistakable.

This is great news for current and future Bulldogs because Smart’s now on the record supporting the common-sense belief that a young man who earns his undergraduate degree also has earned the right to play his final season of college football elsewhere if he so desires.

Can’t wait to see Smart stick to that stance when someone like Jacob Eason wants to exercise that option down the road.

Dude, the odds of Jacob Eason exercising a graduate transfer to anywhere but the NFL are about the same as my dating a supermodel.  That is to say, nonexistent.  But I digress.

Yes, the timing of Kirby’s noble stand is certainly convenient for Georgia.  And it would be a lot cleaner if Smart hadn’t put the conditions on Turman’s transfer that he did.  But let’s be clear about some things.  First of all, even if Smart had retained Mark Richt’s policy on transfers, does anyone really believe that would have made any difference whatsoever to Nick Saban here?  Of course not.  (To be fair, Nick Saban hasn’t accused his protege of hypocrisy here.)

Second, it’s worth noting that both Saban and Smart qualified their stance on transfers with the “unless it’s a special situation” special sauce.  Smart is taking the blanket position that graduation is precisely the kind of special situation that qualifies.  As a first time head coach with only a few months under his belt, he has the luxury of that stance without contradicting himself.

Unfortunately for Nick Saban, with a lengthy track record, he doesn’t have that luxury, which is why the Chris Black transfer is being thrown back in his face with some effectiveness.  Jon Solomon found another example of Saban hedging his bets.

That’s what happened when Ole Miss granted a release this offseason to kicker Andy Pappanastos, who graduated in the spring and transferred to Alabama with immediate eligibility. Pappanastos was on scholarship at Ole Miss but rarely played. He is a walk-on at Alabama and figures to compete for Alabama’s starting kicker job in 2017, though he could play sooner if needed, reported in March. Saban had no problem accepting Pappanastos from another SEC school, yet Smith’s interest to transfer to Georgia is deemed unacceptable.

Solomon goes on to tar the two coaches with the same brush (“Coaches and schools view players as assets they can control. Saban and Smart want what’s best for the player — unless what’s best may not align with the competitive interests of the coach.”), and while I’m not going to argue with his point about the unfairness of restricting player transfers, I’m also not going to pretend we’ll see significant change any time soon.

But what I do think we should settle for at a minimum — and when I say “settle”, I mean hold coaches accountable — is requiring a head coach to outline a transfer policy that can be explained to recruits in a truthful manner without bullshit.  To me, it’s no different than grayshirting or other methods of roster management.  As long as a kid goes into a situation fully informed, with his eyes opened about what could happen down the road, and is willing to accept that, it’s fine.  Ironically, I’ve defended Saban in that regard before, because I don’t think he’s had to soft sell his roster management policy.

From that point of view, I can defend Kirby’s hair-splitting regarding transfers, at least for now.  As long as he’s telling recruits he intends to let graduates transfer freely and sticks to that, he’s not being a hypocrite.

But you tell me how Nick Saban explains his transfer policy to recruits.  I doubt “whatever suits me best at the time” is a good sell, but what do I know?



Filed under Georgia Football, Nick Saban Rules

24 responses to “Is there a difference between hair-splitting and hypocrisy?

  1. dawgxian

    I think CKS’ goal with Turman was to block a potential exodus of players to Miami or SEC schools. Using the Senator’s Eason example, does anyone really ‘expect’ an epidemic of guys graduating in 3 years and transferring? Saban has looked horrible in this and has nothing to show for it. He’s better off letting Smith go


    • Jared S.

      If by saying Saban would be “better off” letting Smith transfer to Georgia you mean that Saban would be better liked then I agree with you. But outside of that I don’t really see how this effects Saban much. Everyone already knew he was a dick.


  2. heyberto

    I wasn’t happy with Kirby’s / The school’s stance on Turman, but I get the idea behind it. The crux of my beef with it is they changed the policy from Richt’s but should have given players like A.J. a one time chance to go with no restrictions. After a certain date, transfer restrictions were in place. I get the problems with doing that.. Kirby could have incited a bit of an exodus. In the end, it didn’t affect where AJ wanted to go, and Kirby got to send a message to players about leaving. Going forward, I only want to see a consistent policy. I still believe players should go where they want to go, and should be free to transfer anywhere, but as long as Kirby is consistent (Unlike how Saban is with his policy), I won’t be too critical of it going forward.


  3. I agree that, at the least, a graduate transfer should not be restricted. Either the SEC or the NCAA should establish that as policy, in my opinion. With regard to the undergraduate situation, that’s likely to remain both unchanged and ugly, as I don’t see policy makers stepping in on that any time soon.


  4. Saban’s non-athletic reason is that the player can’t contribute athletically to his team. It has zero to do with the player’s non-athletic reason.


  5. 1smartdude

    In these cases, I believe it is hypocritical. First of all,I believe a kid should be able to transfer when he wishes. Richt’s stance was correct. Schools don’t own kids. Kirby said he didn’t want players following Richt, should we expect Saban to accept it in this case? I do get the difference in being a graduate but if you’ve kept up with the Smith case, he’s yet to say Georgia offers him an academic opportunity with his second degree. He and his family simply point out the advantages he’s looking at for football. If that’s his motivation, how does being a graduate make a difference. The distinction between the two was so they can do what’s best for their academics. If it’s simply a football decision, there is no real special circumstances and the reason for transferring is no different than Turman’s. Just let these kid’s do what they feel is best for themselves. The only way that happens is to change the rule. Until that’s done, both of these coaches and the rest of the SEC will make these choices based on what they feel is best for themselves because they’ve been given that authority by the rule. Saban and Smart both looked out for what they feel is in the best interest of their football team, both used the same rule to limit their players. It is hypocritical for either to expect anything less from the other, no matter how you spin it.


  6. Bigshot

    The spilt between Krby and Saban was not as pretty as it was made out to be. I have it on a good source that Saban was extremely upset about some of the things Kirby did. i.e. Trying to hire Cochran


  7. Macallanlover

    I think Kirby’s position is much better than Richt’s and Saban’s, but restricting Turman to a non-SEC school, or a team on our immediate schedule was a major bonehead move. Grads should have unlimited transfer rights and undergrads should be able to transfer anywhere but within the conference and schools you are scheduled to play within their timeframe. Saban is coming across looking really stupid on this issue, period. Even hardcore Bama fans are breaking ranks with him, I don’t get this hardline stance in such a petty (to Bama) situation.


  8. steve

    Finebaum spent two hours discussing this on his show yesterday and ended by saying ‘it will be a non story tomorrow’ (today). But he has always considered himself the Paul Revere of CFB sans hair.


  9. Columbus Dawg

    There is NO way Saban wins this in court, and it may end up there. Telling an adult male who has graduated from the current university what he can and can not do simply will not pass the smell test, or any other test for that matter. I hope the little pos with “little man syndrome” gets waxed in this one!


    • HVL Dawg

      Don’t make like Saban kept this kid from going to grad school, or from playing football for that matter. The kid can pay tuition and play football or the school can give him an academic scholarship and he not play football.

      The kid wants to develop his football skills and he’s under contract with Alabama- who has invested a great deal in him so far.

      Lots of kids get to the NFL from Jacksonville State.

      Saban is sticking to the rule in place when the punk chose Alabama. Kirby’s the one looking like a creep.


      • “he’s under contract with Alabama” — LMAO. What contract is that, exactly?

        His scholarship wasn’t renewed, remember?


      • Kirby Avalir

        “Kirby’s the one looking like a creep.”



      • W Cobb Dawg

        Isn’t the scholly an issue? I thought saban rescinded it and then reinstated it? Apart from the graduate transfer issue, seems to me Smith is getting royally jerked around by saban – even if he stays. And for what, so he can play STs?


      • Macallanlover

        At UGA, and other schools with a similar stance, that honor scholarships as almost a “until you graduate” policy, you can almost make that “under contract” statement, but Bama isn’t one of those. I am not for the chaos I believe a wide open transfer policy would bring, but when the student graduates, the bond ends and they should be free to pursue their life without encumbrances. To think Saban, and the SEC, isn’t putting up roadblocks with this rule is to ignore reality.


        • 1smartdude

          Of course he’s putting up roadblocks. But so did Kirby. The hypocrisy comes into play when you say it’s ok for one coach to follow the rule and not the other. They are both following the very same rule. I think the only way you can point a finger at Saban is if you also point a finger at Smart. The rule needs to change, until it does, both coaches are simply exercising their rights under the rule. Usually coaches get in hot water for NOT following the rules. Unless people want to put forth the effort and live with the consequences of changing the rule, they should probably quit complaining when the rules are followed. I doubt the rule changes though. There are very few SEC teams that want to have to compete against the elite SEC teams a second time, for the same recruits. Saban and Alabama in particular, because one thing we’ve learned, Saban isn’t afraid to follow the rule if it benefits his team.


          • Macallanlover

            I said it was a bonehead move by Kirby, except where the SEC and scheduled opponents are involved. But you are deliberately ignoring the critical difference, and it is a doozie, Smith has graduated, get it, fulfilled his end of the bargain. Little Nicky is being unusally sleazy in this and it makes him look like an even smaller man. Kirby made a “minor” error, Bama is making a huge mountain out of this molehill and is getting skewered nationally with no one defending his decision. It was stupid, even if he is technically within the rule.


            • Exactly right, Mac. This situation makes the SEC, Alabama, and Nick Saban all look bad for what seems to be a no-brainer decision. If he were giving up football to pursue a graduate degree, Saban would be praising Smith for being a good teammate and young man with a future in whatever career he were choosing. Since he wants to do both (pursue his grad studies and play), Saban has to control where he can do it and has made himself look smaller than he is already is.


      • Napoleon BonerFart

        I like the “let them eat cake” philosophy. Why doesn’t the kid just give up football and go to Harvard for his graduate degree? It’s so easy, amirite?