So, last week I posted about an interview with Maurice Smith in which he discussed the circumstances surrounding his transfer to Georgia. One thing he made very clear in that discussion was that Kirby Smart never approached him about joining him in Athens, despite having plenty of opportunity to do so.
TRO: Did coach Smart (Alabama defensive coordinator) or coach Tucker (Alabama defensive backs coach) let you know before they took their jobs with Georgia that they may be moving, and that there would be interest in bringing you along if they did move?
Smith: Honestly, it sounds funny, but we never even spoke about it. My relationship with coach Smart at ‘Bama was not what it could have been — it was not that strong or close. He recruited me out of high school, but once I was there a couple of things happened and went the route they did just because of him. It wasn’t like I didn’t like him or anything like that. I just didn’t understand what was going on.
Before the National Title game, we knew he was leaving, but he never spoke about it. Obviously, there were the little things: “You do what you do, and you will have success”. That kind of thing. But in terms of a conversation about me following him, that never crossed our minds.
The fine folks at Roll Bama Roll ain’t buyin’ that story, no siree. Their version of reality boils down to a simple assertion of “There is
outright alleged player tampering — looking at you Maurice Smith.”
Nice strike through, fellas. Why don’t you just come out and call Smart a real shitbird and be done with it?
This comes in the context of defending the current order.
When players sign their LOI at Alabama, they freely enter a bargain that goes like this: You will receive the benefit of years of the best housing, development, training, national exposure, coaching, nutrition, career and professional mentoring, health care, rehabilitation, dining, and facilities in the nation, all on top of a free world-class education and monthly stipend, and you shall do so against the best competition that the sport provides. In return, you covenant that if you wish to transfer, after haven taken hundreds of thousands of dollars of the university’s investment in you, tangible or otherwise, that the university will not waive your transfer. Morever, in order to cut down on tampering, skullduggery and free agency, such transfers as you wish to make may generally not be inside the conference or with a team on our schedule. If you want to do so, you’ll have to go through the league, the NCAA, and then sit out. We’re not waiving it. Deal?
And, in the end, they have all agreed to the bargain: to the obligations that each side owe another and that each side shall act in good faith towards the other.
That’s really what’s at stake here. The university is not profiting off of Player A that has ridden the pine for two years, so much as the University has made a significant material investment in that player. And that player has willfully taken those benefits and did so knowing what the university promised to do for him during the course of a career. But, by entering into that agreement in a sport with limited finite resources, and more than a little bit of cheating, the player knows that the school has a right to safeguard its intellectual property — so this is what he promises back to the school; obligations do not flow one way.
It is all I can do not to laugh out loud reading that. They lost me at “freely”, admittedly, but besides that, what seventeen-year old kid do you know who can firmly grasp concepts like a school having “a right to safeguard its intellectual property”? Especially in a world where coaches leave one school for a rival seemingly at the drop of a hat (looking at you, Jeremy Pruitt, to borrow some snark here), this is more than just a slight stretch.
And this is particularly rich:
LOIs are not cash contracts; they are in-kind contracts. The players wish to be treated as paraprofessionals and adults. Honoring a contract you freely enter into, even the liquidation provisions that you do not like; honoring your end of contract that you have knowingly taken the benefits from, is part of being a professional. And it’s absolutely the grown-up, real world.
So we’re talking contracts now, and the grown-up, real world? Not sure what a “paraprofessional” is, although I suspect it’s a weasel word made up to avoid the full consequences of what a contractual relationship implies, but let me say as someone who reviews contracts for a living that if you want to restrict an employee’s movement upon leaving your place of work, that’s what non-compete clauses are for, not some amorphous understanding of a right to safeguard intellectual property. And non-competes are notorious for having to be specific to be enforceable.
Again, the whole problem here are the mental gymnastics on display to somehow distinguish making it proper for coaches to do to student-athletes what they don’t do to each other (Bert being a notable exception). It’s a flimsy argument at best that’s demolished by what happens in the real world they point to — a real world that, by the way, doesn’t allow kids to have legal representation before signing a letter of intent.
What’s really going on here is that these guys know just as well as Saban does that his line of patter about how changing the in-conference transfer rule would benefit Alabama more than any other school is utter bullshit. If you accumulate the most talent, you’ve got the most to lose if player movement is liberalized. There’s no shame in admitting that. The problem comes when you try to shame players into staying when their preference lies elsewhere.