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, AL.com 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?