Florida wants former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire as a graduate transfer for the 2017 season. Zaire, by some accounts, has reciprocal interest. There’s only one little problem holding the two back from tying the knot.
The SEC requires graduate transfers to hit certain academic benchmarks after they transfer, or the school is penalized by not being allowed to sign such players for three years. Florida is unable to take on new grad transfers because offensive lineman Mason Halter and linebacker Anthony Harrell did not meet the requirements after transferring in 2015.
This, you may recall, is the issue currently in front of Georgia with regard to Maurice Smith’s hope to play NFL ball and the effect it would have on Georgia potentially facing a similar penalty. And therein lies the rub as to how SEC athletic departments think. Whereas Georgia is merely hoping for an individual waiver in Smith’s case, Florida has bigger fish in mind.
Florida coach Jim McElwain told GatorBait.net that he hopes the rule will change and that he believes the SEC will re-examine the rule at its spring meeting.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey says the rule was created to make sure schools didn’t stockpile player, without accountability.
“We put originally a five-year prohibition on taking more grad transfers because we wanted that accountability to be meaningful,” Sankey said. “We’ve moved that to three, and actually in our office we had a number of conversations observing, first of all, no one else has that kind of accountability in their own system.
“We don’t want to be overly punitive in how we create that kind of accountability.”
Some of that you can say is due to which side of the divide the two programs currently find themselves on this, but if Florida is successful in lobbying the conference to change what is certainly a rule that overreaches, it’s just another reminder of which athletic department remains among the SEC’s most passive.