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Nick Saban discusses graduate transfers, Brandon Kennedy

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Alabama coach Nick Saban discusses graduate transfer rules at the SEC meetings in Destin, Fla.
Knoxville

DESTIN, Fla. — The four-day SEC spring meetings began Tuesday, with athletic directors, coaches and university brass gathering at Hilton Sandestin Beach.

Here are highlights of the day.

Talking point

Nick Saban remains against allowing graduate transfers to maneuver within the SEC without having to sit out a season.

But if SEC coaches want to change the league bylaws to allow grad transfers to move to another league school and play immediately, he figures Alabama will benefit more than most.

In other words, it’s a win-win for Saban. He either gets what he wants, or the policy will change in a way he thinks will benefit the Crimson Tide.

Saban believes changing the rule will create “free agency” within the league.

“If we allow that to happen within the league, I think it will benefit some schools more than others,” Saban said, “and I think we’re one of the schools that it would benefit. But I still am not for it.”

More: Darrin Kirkland Jr. won’t transfer from Tennessee Vols after all, per report

NCAA rules allow graduate transfers to play immediately. However, SEC bylaw 14.5.5.1 states that a student transferring from a member institution shall not be eligible at another member school until the student has fulfilled a residence requirement of two full semesters.

Grad transfers can apply to the SEC for a waiver to play immediately. 

At last year’s meetings, Georgia proposed an amendment that would allow graduate transfers moving from one SEC school to another to be eligible immediately. The proposal was tabled and is expected to be reconsidered this week.

In 2016, Alabama cornerback Maurice Smith followed Kirby Smart to Georgia to play his final season there as a graduate transfer. Although Alabama aimed to block the transfer, Smith appealed to the SEC and received a waiver allowing him to play immediately for the Bulldogs.

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Alabama finds itself in a similar situation this year. It is blocking offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy, a graduate transfer, from going to another school within the SEC. Kennedy, who has three years of eligibility remaining, reportedly would be interested in Tennessee or Auburn if he wasn’t blocked.

“There was a lot of silence in the room last year when (the amendment) was proposed,” said Smart, who is in favor of amending the rule. “And now all of a sudden, it’s got maybe a little more steam.”

Asked whether it’s fair that another SEC school would reap the benefits of a graduate transfer after the school he’s departing put in all the legwork to develop the player, Smart quipped that it’s no different from an assistant coach leaving to become a head coach at another school.

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Georgia coach Kirby Smart discusses graduate transfer rules at the SEC meetings in Destin, Fla.
Knoxville

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher agrees with Smart that graduate transfers moving from one SEC school to another should be able to play immediately.

“(If) a guy’s fulfilled his time and he’s graduated from school and he’s supposedly a man, he ought to be able to make those decisions,” Fisher said. “I know some people don’t agree with that, but I do. They graduated, they ought to be able to do it.”

Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt and Vols athletic director Phillip Fulmer also have said they think graduate transfers maneuvering within the league should be free to play immediately.

Also of note

There are 11 SEC legislative proposals and nine NCAA legislative proposals on the docket to be considered this week.

Among them is one NCAA legislative proposal from Tennessee. UT proposed that scholarship limits for men’s and women’s cross country be separated from men’s and women’s track.

Current Division I scholarship limits are 12.6 for men’s track and field and 18 for women’s track and field. Scholarships for any cross country athletes are included within those limits.

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Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt met with the media Thursday in Kingsport
Mike Wilson, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee

“Men’s and women’s cross country are the only NCAA Division I championship sports in which financial aid awards are shared with another championship sport (track and field),” the rationale for the proposal states. “The creation of separate equivalency limits for cross country will provide additional financial aid opportunities for NCAA Division I student-athletes in both cross country and track and field.”

Also of note, Part II

Among the NCAA legislative proposals considered will be one brought by ADs that would increase the allowed size of baseball and softball coaching staffs from three to four full-time staffers. As part of the proposal, the volunteer coaching position would be eliminated.

Tennessee baseball and softball each currently have three-member coaching staffs plus a volunteer assistant.

 

 

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