Smith vs. Saban: “It’s not personal.”

The Smith family continues to work the media diligently.

Inside this hotel meeting room are Maurice Smith and several family members.

It’s Saturday night, hours after Smith graduated from Alabama.

But the family isn’t celebrating.

Instead, they’re seated around this long rectangular table talking about Smith’s ugly ongoing battle with Alabama and sharing their frustration regarding Alabama’s handling of this process while continuing to emphasize that they believe Smith and other graduate transfers should be able to transfer wherever they want. Even if it’s in the same conference.

Smith, a senior defensive back, continues to seek a release to Georgia. Tide coach Nick Saban continues to tell him that he can’t transfer to Georgia or any other SEC school.

It’s become a frustrating, draining situation for both the Smith family and Alabama.

Okay, making the public case is the only weapon they have at their disposal, but will it work?  Maurice Smith claims time isn’t an issue for him (“There’s really not a deadline. I’m willing to go as far as it takes to play the season at the school that I desire, which is Georgia.”), but the reality would seem to be otherwise, unless he’s willing to play without a scholarship.

Does Nick Saban strike anyone as the kind of man who digs in, only to relent later?  I can’t say he does me, but according to Kirby Smart, Saban’s changed a little over the years.

“On a scale of one to 10,” Smart said, “(with 10 being) just out-of-control, just manic, all ball when I first got with him, I really feel like that’s toned down to an 8 or a 7.”

Saban deals with his assistants and his players in a different way than he once did. While he still presents the same hard-nosed facade to the media, Smart said the Crimson Tide coach is more vulnerable with his teams today.

“He was more emotional with those last three or four teams,” Smart said. “The one that won it with A.J. (McCarron) and C.J. (Mosley) down in Miami (in 2012). That was a team that was really emotional. He got emotional with Blake Sims’ group (in 2014). You hear it in his voice, where, when I go back to the first years, and even LSU, there was never that emotional side. He would never let a team see that, where he choked up a little bit.”

These days, is he vulnerable enough to react to a little mockery?  (The ‘Bama fan base isn’t.)  If you check PAWWWLLL’s Twitter feed, Finebaum is having a field day with this.

Color me skeptical, although it has to be said that in other instances, public perception has caused other programs to relent.  And Smith’s message is tough for Saban to rebut.

Seated in the corner of the room near the end of the conversation, Smith is asked, “Why Georgia?”

“Honestly, I believe it’s the best fit for me personally to just walk in and have an opportunity in front of me to play and also get on film,” Smith says. “And also, our (former) defensive coordinator is there. Coach Smart, he’s the head coach now. So it’s just an all-around good fit for me to come in. It’s almost the same system as Alabama, so it will be an easy transition and also the playbook. And I don’t have a lot of time to get on the field and basically get my senior year underway, so I think that would be the best opportunity and the best choice for me to move to.”

If part of the collegiate athletic experience is providing the opportunity for student-athletes to prepare for a chance at a professional career, how can Saban argue there are football programs better suited for Smith than the one where his former coaches run the defense he’s played in for three years?  Smith calls that a business decision and, for once, the phrase isn’t trite.

But can he find the story has enough traction to force Saban to respond?


Filed under Nick Saban Rules

46 responses to “Smith vs. Saban: “It’s not personal.”

  1. DawgPhan

    Could the SEC step in and fix this?

    • Not if Greg Sankey doesn’t want a brick through a window at his house in Birmingham

      • Macallanlover

        It is what you get for leaders when academia and “promoting the well behaved assistant” is how you run the program. Sankey has a chance to step in, so do the presidents (lower case intended). But as a betting man, I don’t think he has it in him; just another talking puppet. Weak man, very weak.

        Saban is dead wrong and is nutso for being wiling to die on the sword for such a bad rule (referring only to graduate transfers). Amazed his usually good ear for PR is failing him on this one, it is trivial from a competitive standpoint. Smith should continue to fight this.


    To answer your last question, I doubt it.

  3. heyberto

    As outraged as Mike Greenberg was on AJ Turman.. I wonder why isn’t pushing back harder on this.. or is his voice getting drowned out this time with everyone else griping?

  4. Paulwesterdawg

    He needs to enroll at UGA, pay his own way and then sue Bama for something….some sort of hardship. I’m sure they can dream up some sort of injustice. Some restriction of trade/labor.

    • He needs to enroll at UGA, pay his own way…

      From a PR standpoint, that would be brutal for Nick Saban. Media would be harping on it all season, particularly if Smith played a prominent role on Georgia’s defense. (Which I assume he would.)

      It wouldn’t be a particularly good look for the SEC, either.

      • heyberto

        So the deal is, he can walk on but can’t accept an athletic scholarship?

        • According to Seth Emerson, he can walk on, but would have to sit a year.

          • The longer this goes, the more I’m convinced he’s not going to suit up in the silver britches. The national media will find other things to talk about, Little Nicky will pretty much put the kibosh on any questions from the Tide Pravda, and Smith knows he needs to get somewhere quickly. Why push the rock up a hill when the other side isn’t going to move?

      • Can you imagine if he had a good season and was an all-SEC selection even it were 3rd team and Georgia played Alabama in the SECCG? Little Nicky’s Coke bottle would be very busy.

    • Derek

      How about we give him an academic scholarship and then threaten to suit him up in the dome. Make Saban, the NCAA and the sec deal with it. What move do they make then? I think they back down rather than take the PR or liability hit.

      • Would we ever see the people embedded in the Georgia Way do something like what you’ve proposed? The AD would probably voluntarily put us on a 2-year bowl ban just for suggesting it.

  5. Don in Mar-a-Lago

    “On a scale of one to 10,” Smart said, “(with 10 being) just out-of-control, just manic, all ball when I first got with him, I really feel like that’s toned down to an 8 or a 7.”

    Many people are saying Nick is best when turned up to 11.
    His deflation is very sad.

  6. When he was asked “Why Georgia?”, I was hoping he’d throw something in there about the graduate program he was interested in. Too much to expect? Time is not on his side.

    • Otto

      Exactly, he is running out of time, in a few weeks games will be on TV and this will be a thing of the past. Are we still talking about Saban using medical scholarships? Did it slow down his recruiting?

      Smith should go down to Miami now if he can play and think it is a good fit, or be in Athens in time for Spring camp (if possible) he may not be able to take a scholar until next fall.

  7. GATA 72

    Hunger Strike……

  8. Brandon

    Shots fired on Sirius XM’s camp tour at Georgia this afternoon… Staples asked Kirby his opnion on it and Kirby specifically said he believes once a player graduates he should be able to go wherever he pleases and basically said what Saban is doing to this kid is wrong.

  9. Uglydawg

    Question for you field-lawyers…If he came to Georgia and sat out a year…not on the roster but helping out as an unpaid assistant..would he be allowed to work and have a job?? If you’re telling someone they can’t play and they can’t work at the same time you’re going to lose in court, if it comes to that. If necessary, I would hope he comes on and enrolls, works and plays next season when there should be a better threat of meeting up with Alller-dam-bammer in the dome.

  10. Smith isn’t going to win this battle. If the message he was pushing was academic (I want to go to Georgia because of x graduate program and I need to be on athletic scholarship in order to make that happen), then I think there would be even more pressure. By his statements its clear that this is a football decision, which is why the rule exists.

    • Sorry, but the rule doesn’t prohibit graduate transfers if they’re made as a “football decision”.

      Some of you guys are splitting more hairs than the coaches are.

      • 1smartdude

        Actually, what the rule says is that in either case, the coach has the say, at least in the SEC. I do think that by not giving an academic reason and instead a football reason, Saban can make his choice and not suffer any real inner turmoil over it.

        • I know what the rule says.

          Saban isn’t suffering any inner turmoil about this, no matter what.

          It’s about coaching control, not about student-athlete intent. But if it makes it easier for you to justify, knock yourself out, dude.

      • My point is that most people (including myself) seem to think this is a bad rule because he is a graduate transfer vs an underclassman. The rationale that as a graduate, he should be able to continue his education wherever he deems best is hard to argue with. However, just stating that he wants to go play football somewhere else eliminates the ‘student’ aspect of this equation and therefore leaves little difference between graduate transfer vs underclassman. That is a less compelling argument for me. I know in reality, it makes no difference, but in the public eye/sympathy factor it does.

        • You really think the public cares that much? That would be news to me.

        • CB

          That’s a good point, I’m not sure how much it’s worth, but it would have been smarter from a PR perspective to frame it as an academic request with football being the means to pay for it. That would give the media a little something extra to gnaw on Saban with.

          • I must be missing something here. When have you ever heard a graduate transfer claim he’s changing programs because of academics?

            • CB

              I’m not sure if I’ve paid enough attention to know, but if the answer is never then that’s kind of the point. Given the climate of NCAA criticism today, the plight of an exemplary young man who earned his degree early and is seeking to use football to further his education at another institution, but is being blocked by Saban for football reasons. Forgive the run on sentence I haven’t blogged in a while, but that’s a narrative the media might sink their teeth into. Especially, since the NCAA claims it’s all about education. Not saying it would result in a W, but it could increase traction.

            • CB

              In a way he would be using the NCAA education argument against the NCAA. If education is the biggest concern then why can’t I transfer to UGA in order to get a degree in blah blah blah?

          • If you watch the video, that’s exactly what his mother is saying.

  11. stoopnagle

    “His reaction was he was excited for me,” Smart said during his introductory press conference at Georgia on Monday. “He and I have a great relationship.

    “He’s been a great mentor for me and was very supportive and said he’ll do anything he can to help me and continue that development. He’s always been supportive. He’s got a lot of guys out there that he’s worked with in this profession.”

    Maybe time for Kirby to call ol Nick out for the help?

  12. AthensHomerDawg

    I don’t believe Saban would ever change his mind no matter how Smart may think he has mellowed. Player ain’t coming. Makes for interesting reading until ball season arrives.
    Your omd.

  13. W Cobb Dawg

    Does Smith have a redshirt year left? I’d assume he could then come to UGA to play in 2017 and work on a graduate degree through December 2017.

    Considering the time frame, wherever he goes it’s for one reason – to play football. He might get a couple classes in, but I’m assuming come January he shifts his concentration to the combine & draft. Don’t get me wrong, I like Smith. I’m glad he got his degree (even if it is from bamy) and hope he finds a way on our team. Taking a 2 season approach and getting a grad degree on UGA’s dime wouldn’t hurt him in the long run.

  14. John Denver is full of shit...

    puff piece on saban, timing is everything

  15. CB

    The real story here is how easy must Bama be in order for athletes, who put in so many hours outside of the classroom, to graduate in 3 years? That’s probably why Nick is really mad. He’s intimidated teachers into making classes easier, and now he’s at risk of losing a solid special teams player to a rival as a result.

  16. ASEF

    For Alabama, the equation is simple: the long-term risks exceed the reward of a little less negative press that will dissipate opening weekend anyway.

    Unless this hurts Alabama from a recruiter ng standpoint (hard to see how in a significant way), they ain’t budging.