Category Archives: Nick Saban Rules

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

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

When roster management gets personal

If this account is true, the only thing that surprises me about the Maurice Smith story is, after all that’s gone down, that Nick Saban “doesn’t feel like it’s in Smith’s best interest to leave Alabama”.

Well, that and why he thinks Smith would want to stay in the first place.


Filed under Nick Saban Rules

“… and he’s hiding behind some fine print…”

Barrett Sallee thinks there’s a simple explanation for why Nick Saban is stonewalling Maurice Smith.  He’s skeered.

The threat of Georgia becoming a power is the underlying theme in the ongoing Smith saga.

After I stopped chuckling, I was gonna respond, but instead I think I’ll outsource the retort to Finebaum, of all people.

The more the media keeps this up, the harder it’s going to be for Saban to stonewall.


Filed under Media Punditry/Foibles, Nick Saban Rules

“You want me to do a (Bill) Belichick on you.”

Methinks the Coke bottle is getting a wee bit testy.


Filed under Nick Saban Rules

Alabama’s getting its Chris Black story straight.

Another day, another rationale.

Now, instead of the dog eating the homework paperwork getting lost, it’s just your basic “we didn’t need the kid anymore, so we wish him well” stuff that’s SOP at ‘Bama.  That at least has the virtue of familiarity going for it.

By the way, I just bet Saban can prove that every incoming transfer to his program has come for “clear non-athletics reasons”.  In other words, they’re still BSing.



Filed under It's All Just Made Up And Flagellant, Nick Saban Rules

Today, in bullshit

One of the talking points in the Maurice Smith transfer situation is that Alabama let another player, Chris Black, transfer to Missouri last season, which is inconsistent with Saban’s stance now regarding Smith.  Evidently the school is prepared to let everyone know that Black’s transfer doesn’t count.  Wanna know why?

Because nobody was paying attention.  No, really.

Schools have seven business days to either approve or deny a player’s request for a release, according to an NCAA Bylaw.

What happens if a school doesn’t respond within seven business days? The school has to give the player a full release.

That’s what happened with Black, sources told

The wide receiver put in for his release leading up to Alabama’s game against LSU in early November.

It was a huge game, No. 4 Alabama against No. 2 LSU. With people inside the Tide building being as busy as they were leading up to that game, Black’s request for a release either got forgotten about or went unnoticed until it was too late, according to sources.

Like with Smith, coach Nick Saban didn’t want Black transferring to another SEC school. But that’s why Black was able to.

We’re supposed to believe that the man who embodies being a control freak with the largest support staff in college football didn’t keep track of a player’s transfer request because he was too preoccupied?  Sorry, but that dog won’t hunt.

I hope somebody calls Saban on this whenever the topic of Smith’s transfer is raised in his next presser.  Maybe the Coke bottle can shed some light on it.  Seriously, if this is the best he’s got, he might as well go ahead and throw the towel in already.


Filed under It's All Just Made Up And Flagellant, Nick Saban Rules