Spring meet­ings: SEC may re­lax its grad­u­ate-trans­fer penalty

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - PAGE 2 BITS - BY DAVID PASCHALL STAFF WRITER Con­tact David Paschall at dpaschall@ times­freep­ress.com or 423757-6524.

The South­east­ern Con­fer­ence con­tin­ues to wres­tle with the NCAA’s grad­u­ate-trans­fer rule, with Tues­day’s open­ing of the league’s spring meet­ings in Destin, Fla., pro­vid­ing the lat­est ev­i­dence.

League poli­cies cur­rently pe­nal­ize pro­grams for mul­ti­ple years af­ter grad­u­ate trans­fers fail to meet aca­demic bench­marks, but that could be re­laxed later this week when SEC ath­letic di­rec­tors gather with con­fer­ence com­mis­sioner Greg Sankey. Foot­ball coaches took turns Tues­day dis­cussing the is­sue.

“What is the in­tent of the rule to start with?” Alabama’s Nick Sa­ban said in a news con­fer­ence. “I think the in­tent of the rule to start with was based on some­body chang­ing schools for aca­demic rea­sons. That was the in­tent of the rule to start with, and now that doesn’t mat­ter.

“I’ve never been in fa­vor of free agency in our league. I wasn’t for it last year, and I don’t think I’ll ever be for it.”

The Crim­son Tide won the 2015 national cham­pi­onship with Jake Coker at quar­ter­back, and he was a grad­u­ate trans­fer from Florida State. They have used grad­u­ate trans­fers at re­ceiver each of the past two sea­sons, with Richard Mul­laney (Ore­gon State) to­tal­ing nearly 400 re­ceiv­ing yards for the 2015 champs and Gehrig Di­eter (Bowl­ing Green) com­pil­ing more than 200 yards last sea­son.

Sa­ban also lost a grad­u­ate trans­fer last Au­gust when de­fen­sive back Mau­rice Smith played his fi­nal sea­son at Ge­or­gia, be­com­ing one of four team cap­tains for the Bull­dogs. It was an un­com­fort­able predica­ment for Sa­ban, who ini­tially blocked Smith’s trans­fer but had to re­lent once the SEC of­fice gave Smith clear­ance to switch within the league.

“We would ben­e­fit as much as any­body in our league if you could trans­fer,” Sa­ban said. “If Ken­tucky’s

“I think the in­tent of the rule to start with was based on some­body chang­ing schools for aca­demic rea­sons. That was the in­tent of the rule to start with, and now that doesn’t mat­ter.”

– NICK SA­BAN

got a good player, let’s see if we can get him to come to Alabama, but why would we do that? How does that help the in­tegrity of what we’re try­ing to do as a con­fer­ence?”

The NCAA adopted grad­u­ate-trans­fer leg­is­la­tion in 2005, tabled it in 2006 and then rein­tro­duced it in 2010 through a waiver process. Cur­rent Seat­tle Sea­hawks quar­ter­back Rus­sell Wil­son be­came the first prom­i­nent player to use the rule, play­ing the 2011 sea­son at Wis­con­sin af­ter grad­u­at­ing from North Carolina State, while the SEC ex­pe­ri­enced a more dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion out of the gate.

Ole Miss wanted Ore­gon grad­u­ate trans­fer quar­ter­back Jeremiah Ma­soli for the 2010 sea­son, but Ma­soli had pleaded guilty to sec­ond-de­gree bur­glary dur­ing his time with the Ducks. The NCAA de­nied Ma­soli’s trans­fer, cit­ing that the rule was put in place to fur­ther education and not to run from trou­ble, but Ole Miss ap­pealed and won.

The SEC school now un­der the mi­cro­scope is Florida, which is re­port­edly the de­sired des­ti­na­tion for Notre Dame trans­fer quar­ter­back Ma­lik Zaire. Florida’s last two grad­u­ate trans­fers, Ge­or­gia Tech line­backer An­thony Har­rell and Ford­ham of­fen­sive line­man Ma­son Hal­ter in 2015, failed to make the nec­es­sary aca­demic progress in Gainesville.

Florida re­ceived a three-year ban in ac­cept­ing grad­u­ate trans­fers that runs through 2018, so the only way Zaire could join the Ga­tors is for the SEC to ease its re­stric­tions.

“It’s a hot topic,” Ten­nessee coach Butch Jones said. “I’m look­ing for­ward to these dis­cus­sions and see­ing where we’re go­ing with this. I un­der­stand ev­ery­thing that goes into it, but I’m more or less go­ing to sit back, and I want to form an opin­ion based on ev­ery­one else and their thoughts.”

Sankey said Tues­day night that there is a pro­posal that would re­duce the three-year ban to one year, which would clear a path for the Ga­tors and Zaire.

“If it hap­pens, it hap­pens, and we’ll all move for­ward,” Florida coach Jim McEl­wain told re­porters. “If it doesn’t, it doesn’t, and we’ll all move for­ward.”

Vols-Ga­tors on CBS

CBS will be­gin its 17th sea­son of na­tion­ally tele­vis­ing SEC foot­ball games with TCU at Arkansas on Sept. 9. The net­work then will tele­vise Ten­nessee’s trip to Florida on Sept. 16.

The “SEC on CBS” has been the high­est-rated col­lege foot­ball pack­age dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son for eight con­sec­u­tive years. This year’s lineup will con­tain 17 games, in­clud­ing the Ge­or­gia-Florida game at Jack­sonville on Oct. 28, the Mis­souri at Arkansas game on Nov. 24, which is the Friday af­ter Thanks­giv­ing, and the league cham­pi­onship game on Dec. 2.

Brad Nessler is now the lead play-by-play an­nouncer for the SEC on CBS. He will be teamed with re­turn­ing color an­a­lyst Gary Daniel­son.

ANDY HAR­RI­SON/UGA PHOTO

De­fen­sive back Mau­rice Smith be­gan his ca­reer at Alabama but wound up a Ge­or­gia team cap­tain last sea­son as a grad­u­ate trans­fer.

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