Category Archives: SEC Football

Saturday morning buffet

Time for a little college football nosh.

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Filed under College Football, Crime and Punishment, Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery, SEC Football, Whoa, oh, Alabama

“Administrative error”? Oops!

Ole Miss has lost one of its top running backs for the season.

Ole Miss Rebels running back Jordan Wilkins has been declared academically ineligible for the 2016 season, the school announced Thursday morning.

Wilkins, a redshirt junior, rushed for 379 yards and four touchdowns last season. He was expected to be a “co-starter” this season.

According to the news release, Wilkins failed to meet the NCAA standards for progress toward a degree.

“An appeal was filed with the NCAA for Jordan’s reinstatement based on an administrative error but was denied this week,” the school’s release said.

It wasn’t grades that did Wilkins in.  Apparently the school gave him incorrect information about how many hours he needed to remain eligible. Well played, fellas.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., SEC Football

Idle gossip and random chatter can be fun.

Jimmy Hyams does a round up of what anonymous SEC coaches say about other SEC programs… anonymously.

As I’ve said about Athlon’s similar take, the snark level has gone down noticeably with Tuberville’s departure.  There are only a couple of negative shots at coaches — “Kirby Smart is a very good football coach, but he needs to mature. He loses his cool when things don’t go his way.” and “Arkansas is getting tired of Bielema’s bullshit. He hasn’t won over nine games. Houston (Nutt) won 10 and was a hell of a lot better person.” — but there is another quote that wins:

“A lot of smoke around Ole Miss because of the behavior of some players,” a coach said.

I want to believe that’s a deliberate pun, so whoever you are, coach, well played.

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Filed under SEC Football

Mr. Conventional Wisdom shares some advice.

Most of today’s column, inspired by the Maurice Smith transfer situation, is fairly inoffensive and even, by Barnhart’s standards at least, challenging, as far as Greg Sankey goes.

But then he has to go and end it with this:

Here’s one final point: It is not good for the SEC to have a narrative out there that two of its coaches – Nick Saban and Kirby Smart – are having some kind of turf war of mentor vs. pupil. I know the talk-radio fans find it highly entertaining. But it is bad for the SEC.

Mike Slive had to intercede in 2009 between Urban Meyer and Lane Kiffin when those two boys were getting a little too frisky in public. I would suggest that Sankey put in a call to Saban and Smart with the simplest of messages: “This ends now.”

What, pray tell, is “this”, exactly?  Neither coach has called the other out in public by name, or questioned the other’s transfer practices.  (To a large extent, that’s because with regard to non-graduate transfers, they’re both the same.)

The edgiest things have gotten between the two is that Smart has come out for allowing graduates to transfer freely, but even there, he’s avoided direct criticism of Saban about the Black transfer from Alabama or the Pappanastos transfer to Alabama, both of which are easy targets.  If that’s as bad as it gets, then perhaps Mr. CV should offer a brief smack down of Bert for  publicly backing Saban’s approach.

To compare what’s gone on in this case with the sniping we saw between Corch and Junior is, frankly, a bit insulting to both Saban and Smart, about whom the worst anyone can say is that when it comes to each other, they’re competitive.  In my book, that’s a long way from outright contempt.

Then again, you can’t be conventional if you can’t wallow in a little “both sides do it” when you think it’s needed.  I’m sure the parties involved will give Barnhart’s advice the attention it deserves.

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Filed under Media Punditry/Foibles, SEC Football

“We support the SEC rule of not granting guys’ releases to go to other SEC schools.”

When Alabama relented and gave Maurice Smith his unconditional release, there was a pretty common sentiment that the reason it did so was because the the fix was in — that Nick Saban knew the SEC wouldn’t grant a waiver for Smith to attend Georgia.  It turned out that was wrong.

But there’s more to this story than that.  It wasn’t simply that the SEC granted the waiver, albeit conditionally.  It’s that Greg Sankey went out of his way to criticize the very conference rule that Saban supported.

Sankey did acknowledge it’s time for a healthy discussion about this subject beyond Maurice Smith, particularly SEC Bylaw 14.5.5.1, which prohibits transferring within the league and playing right away barring a successful waiver request. In the commissioner’s words, “The current rule places our coaches and administrators in untenable situations so it is time for us to address graduate transfer rules.”

Granted, that statement came after some weasel words about the need to be careful with graduate transfers (why?) and praise for Alabama’s stance, but when you boil it down, untenable is untenable.  Sankey recognized that Maurice Smith was the perfect storm to challenge an unfair rule and had little choice but to do what he did.

“The five conferences wanted autonomy to make these [type of] decisions,” SEC commissioner Sankey told me. “We’ve just been stuck in the morass of Division I governance process and don’t have an output. Part of what I’m observing is we’ve got to do something.”

It starts with getting rid of the silly year-in-residence rule for graduating players who, like Smith, desire to transfer within the conference. I spoke to two FBS commissioners Friday who told me their conferences would at least have to consider getting rid of similar grad transfer rules.

Sankey was not of them, but the architect of Friday’s ruling suggested he is already tiring of ruling case-by-case. In other words, Smith’s case was not the first one he has dealt with, just the some prominent.

“No, I don’t [look forward] to doing this on an ad hoc basis,” Sankey said.

Think about it: This whole thing blew up over an academically-motivated kid from Sugar Land, Texas, who was second in special teams tackles last season for Alabama.

In a world where conference commissioners issue mealy-mouthed proclamations about student-athletes’ concerns, the optics of preventing someone with a degree from transferring are terrible.  Sankey doesn’t want to defend the indefensible.  Perhaps that will indeed lead to a change in the SEC’s rule, which would be a welcome development.

But that may not be the biggest thing about what just happened.  Because it’s hard to look at how this went down and not think that Greg Sankey hung Nick Saban out to dry.

The SEC owes Nick Saban a favor. Had someone in the conference office told the Alabama coach that the league would let recent Alabama grad—and former Crimson Tide defensive back—Maurice Smith transfer to Georgia and play immediately, Saban probably would have released Smith immediately instead of getting painted as a villain for weeks.

The SEC announced on Friday afternoon that Smith would be granted a waiver to a league rule that would allow him to play immediately. This is the correct decision, because the rule is a bad one in the first place. But the decision came at the wrong time. Instead of letting its most successful coach get blasted as being anti-athlete news cycle after news cycle, someone at the SEC should have stepped in much earlier in this process.

This never had to become a national debate. Had someone at the SEC told Saban earlier this month that Smith would get the waiver, then Saban—who is nothing if not pragmatic—probably would have simply released Smith and saved himself the negative headlines. He stuck up for the league’s rule, but the league didn’t. Had Saban known the SEC would cave, he probably would have released Smith weeks ago.

I think Staples is right about that, except for the favor-owing part.  Saban made a self-serving decision and righteously cloaked himself in the conference rule.  He misread the situation in that Sankey was placed in a spot where he had little choice but to take his own talk about student-athlete support seriously.  (Saban also didn’t help himself with the Black and Pappanastos transfers.)

Still, Sankey could have simply granted Smith’s waiver and left things at that.  Instead, with his call to revise the graduate transfer rules, he’s indicated his intent to move the conference in a direction that will undercut head coaches’ control of their players, something that for most is not a desired result.  And Nick Saban is the catalyst for that.

I don’t think anyone saw that coming, least of all Nick Saban.

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Filed under Nick Saban Rules, SEC Football

Done deal.

The SEC grants Maurice Smith his waiver to be admitted to Georgia.

Welcome aboard, Mo.  Um… first scrimmage is Saturday.

**************************************************************************

UPDATE:  Here’s the official statement.

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Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football

The greatest trick Nick Saban ever played…

… was to make me agree with a Kevin Scarbinsky column.

Saban’s words suggested exasperation with the entire situation.

“We have done everything that we can do institutionally to allow the conference to make the decision about whatever they decide is in the best interest of the conference and the SEC rules relative to Maurice Smith,” Saban said. “So that is past us now. It is beyond us. So we don’t really need to talk about that anymore, and I don’t have any other comments to make about it.”

Did you catch that? Not what’s in the best interest of Maurice Smith. What’s in the best interest of the SEC and its rules.

Those words are telling. They don’t mean Saban doesn’t care about his players, which is an absurd charge from desperate rivals. They mean Saban and every other coach who grosses seven figures a year is driven by a combination of paranoia and pressure to protect the program. Or, as Saban more accurately describes Alabama football, the organization.

The organization wants to help young men earn meaningful degrees and prepare them to lead productive lives when they leave campus. The organization also needs to win, and the tug-of-war between wants and needs isn’t always a fair fight.

In this case, what’s best for a college graduate such as Smith should be decided by Smith and his family, but if someone’s going to decide what’s best for the SEC, better it be Greg Sankey than Saban.

I know there are plenty of folks who love to speculate about Alabama-SEC conspiracies, but I do think Saban’s left Greg Sankey in something of a tight spot here, if it’s Sankey’s inclination to defend the existing rule.

For one, all the attention paid to the fight between Saban and the Smith family makes the optics for a conference denial of a waiver look particularly bad, and that’s even before you get to the whole “why restrict where graduates can transfer?” thing.  The PR black eye for the SEC would be brutal.  And whereas before Saban capitulated, the negativity on the recruiting trail was solely directed the Tide’s way, if Sankey doesn’t grant the waiver, it’ll be the conference as a whole that takes the hit in recruiting.

Beyond that, though, if Sankey doesn’t grant the waiver, it does raise the issue of a double standard, because of this:

There have been exceptions to the SEC transfer rule in recent years. In May, former kicker Andy Pappanastos was released from his scholarship at Ole Miss and transferred to Alabama. Sources told ESPN that the SEC also granted him a waiver to transfer within the league. Pappanastos, who has two years of eligibility remaining, was a scholarship player at Ole Miss but joined the Crimson Tide as a walk-on.

A source familiar with the case told ESPN on Thursday that walk-ons are subject to the same SEC transfer rules as scholarship players and confirmed that Pappanastos had to receive a waiver from the league before he could enroll at Alabama this summer…

In another recent case, former Alabama receiver Chris Black transferred to Missouri as a graduate transfer last season. Al.com reported earlier this month that Black was able to transfer to an SEC school because Alabama officials didn’t respond to his transfer request within seven business days, which is required under NCAA rules. Black also would have needed an SEC waiver to transfer within the league.

Now Sankey could try to ignore the criticism that would undoubtedly be hurled his way, but I don’t think that’s a good look for a guy who loves to talk about supporting student-athletes.  In any event, as Schlabach notes, school in Athens started yesterday, so the clock is ticking for Smith, both on the field and in the classroom.

The ball’s in your court, Commissioner.

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Filed under SEC Football