As the Southeastern Conference's annual meetings kicked off Tuesday in Destin, Fla., Alabama football coach Nick Saban defended his program’s move to block the transfer of a backup offensive lineman by expressing his distaste for some potential alterations to transfer rules.
Currently, SEC rules require grad transfers have to sit out a year when moving from one SEC team to another — though they can appeal — and NCAA rules allow teams to prevent players from transferring to certain programs. There's discussion of both changing.
"If we agree in the SEC at these meetings that we're going to have free agency in our league and everybody can go wherever they want to go when they graduate, that's what we should do,” Saban said while discussing Brandon Kennedy, a graduate transfer with three years of eligibility who Alabama is preventing from transferring within in the conference. (He reportedly wants to play for Auburn or Tennessee.)
"We have a conference rule that says … he can do it, but he has to sit out for a year,” Saban added. “So, why is it on me? It's not even my decision. It's a conference rule."
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The NCAA's Division I Transfer Working Group supports a “notification" model, which would end the practice of athletes needing permission to transfer from their current programs. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey called the notification model “healthy,” according to CBS Sports. The group — which is considering many potential reforms, including allowing players who meet certain academic benchmarks to transfer immediately — is planning to receive feedback from spring conference meetings and reconvene in June.
As for conference bylaw 126.96.36.199, the rule that requires SEC grad transfers to sit out a season before being eligible for another member program: Last year, Georgia proposed an amendment that would abolish the rule, and it was tabled. Discussion on the topic should continue this week.
Like Saban, LSU coach Ed Orgeron said he was “just not for it.” But Georgia’s Kirby Smart, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, South Carolina’s Will Muschamp and Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt all reportedly supported it when meeting with media members on Tuesday.
“I think there was a lot of silence in the room last year when it was proposed and now all of a sudden it's maybe got a little more steam,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I certainly, philosophically, feel like if a person graduates from undergrad and they've done their graduation work then they can choose to go somewhere else.”
Lee representing Mizzou
Missouri linebacker Brandon Lee is one of six SEC student-athletes participating in the meetings. Only one other football player, LSU long snapper Blake Ferguson, is part of the meetings.
Lee previously represented the SEC at a NCAA convention earlier this year. The linebacker, who has one season of eligibility remaining, graduated from MU in May and tweeted last week that he received acceptance into MU’s MBA program.