SANDESTIN, Fla. — Alabama coach Nick Saban has made news in recent years for blocking his players from transferring within the SEC, and he says he doesn’t understand why he has taken heat for doing so.
“I don’t think it should be on me,” Saban said during the SEC spring meetings Tuesday.
Two years ago, Saban stood in the way of former defensive back Maurice Smith when he sought to transfer to Georgia. And this year, Saban has reportedly blocked offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy, who is interested in Auburn and Tennessee, according to al.com.
Under current SEC policy, players are unable to transfer within the conference without a waiver. If they choose to do so anyway and don’t receive a waiver, they must sit out a season before regaining eligibility.
“If we agree in the SEC at these meetings that we’re going to have free agency in our league and everybody can go where they want to go when they graduate and that’s what’s best for the game, then I think that’s what we should do,” Saban said. “And Brandon Kennedy can go where he wants to go. But if we don’t do that, why is it on me? Because we have a conference rule that says he can’t do it. And he can do it but he’s supposed to sit out for a year. So why is it on me? It’s not even my decision.
“It’s a conference rule. I always give people releases. And he has a release to go wherever he wants to go, but the conference rule says he can’t go within the conference. So why is that on me? The Maurice Smith thing wasn’t on me, either.”
Saban’s concern, he said, is that if there aren’t restrictions on transfers, players will leave programs at the first sign of adversity.
“Let me ask you a question: If we make a rule that guys can transfer whenever they want, how are we supposed to get people to do what they should do?” Saban said. “I’m not talking about as football players, I’m talking about as people. I’m talking about making good choices and decisions. … If a guy is missing class and I say you’re not going to play in this game because you’re missing class, which I’ve done on occasion, and he says, ‘I’m transferring,’ is that good?”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who proposed lifting restrictions on intraconference transfers last year, said the idea was met with mostly silence.
Now, he said, “It’s got a little more steam.”
“Most people get a graduate degree where? Where they got their undergrad or somewhere else? Usually somewhere else,” Smart said. “So if they’re going to graduate school for that purpose somewhere else, I don’t see the issue. … If they want to do that, they should be able to do that.”
Smart shut down the idea that it was unfair that one program could invest the time and energy to develop players only for them to leave and benefit a rival.
“You mean just like we do with coaches, right?” Smart said. “Just like I left Alabama and all of the secrets that I learned when I was there went with me. Muschamp took all those secrets from LSU. Jimbo [Fisher] took all those secrets from LSU. Now Jeremy [Pruitt] has all those secrets. I don’t see it that way.”