By now, you're probably aware of Seth Emerson's story about Alabama coach Nick Saban blocking defensive back Maurice Smith, who is graduating, from transferring to Georgia. This isn't dissimilar from Georgia coach Kirby Smart preventing backup running back A.J. Turman from transferring to any SEC school, Miami or Georgia Tech, although I'm sure you'll find fans for the respective schools who will scream in social media, "THIS IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!"
UPDATE: Read Seth Emerson's new story about Smith's Alabama belongings reportedly being thrown in the trash. It's beyond belief.
The bottom line: Saban and Smart are both being petty. Because that's what coaches do. They have all the power and they want all the power. They give soundbites like, "I'm just protecting the (Your School Here) program," but in truth they're protecting themselves.
College coaches want to be allowed to recruit young men and make all sorts of promises to them but reserve the right to run those same players off when they don't meet their level of expectation. They also will allow assistant coaches to pursue kids to sign letters of intent up to signing day, knowing those same coaches are on the verge of taking another job after signing day. Never mind that the player might have signed specifically because of that coach.
And, of course, head coaches leave for other jobs in the middle of contracts all the time. The players? They're stuck. Because scholarships tend to be a one-way contracts: "You're locked in -- unless I decide I don't want you, or don't like you, or I need you scholarship for another kid I like more. You want to stay? Fine. You're not getting off the bench and we need you to wash towels. Still want to stay?"
I understand why Saban and Smart are taking their positions. But it would be better if everybody adopted the Mark Richt "Life's too short" policy of just letting kids leave.
Here's what needs to happen, but probably won't because it makes too much sense:
• The NCAA needs to have a uniform transfer policy for both undergraduate and graduate student-athletes -- if not across all schools, at least across all Division I (FBS) universities or Power Five Conferences (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12). This will come as a shock to SEC coaches, who believe the world revolves around them.
• All transfer rules should be relaxed. Really relaxed. Possibly eliminated. Sorry, NCAA: This is a business. Schools sign coaches to multi-year, eight-digit contracts. Those same coaches and athletic departments romance millionaire donors to help them build state-of-the-art athletic facilities. Academic rules are bent or broken to keep players eligible so teams can win games and generate more revenue. Way down at the bottom are the players, with few rights.
Yes, I know about the free education. It's a great thing. But the truth is Joey Fleet Feet can get a free education at almost any major program in the U.S. He chose a certain school for a coach or any of a number of reasons. But his agreement comes with no guarantees. Why shouldn't he have some of the same rights as a coach?
I've written this before but will do so again: If you believe an open transfer policy will lead to chaos, what is it we have now? Unbalanced chaos?
Saban and Smart are concerned that allowing a reserve player to leave for another SEC school could open the floodgates. I doubt that. I don't think starting quarterbacks and running backs are suddenly going to switch schools unless their circumstances change. But if that's the major concern, put in some safeguards like: "Players with X-number of starts or X-number of yards can't transfer without a university's permission."
There are ways to fix this problem. But the current situation is unfair to players and gives coaches too much power.
- Braves need Kemp move to pay off (because, yes, they're paying a lot)
- Signing Dwight Freeney was right move for Falcons (yes, even at 36)
- Kirby Smart says he's putting Jonathan Ledbetter's recovery over football
- Smart knows he has bigger issues than who starts at quarterback
- Braves' Coppolella scrambling to make up for mistake of Olivera trade
- After playoff absence, tighter Falcons team could be on way up
- Sean Weatherspoon was inexpensive risk for worth taking for Falcons
- Falcons finally centered on their real problem
- Falcons' pass rush could get a boost from Dwight Freeney -- and soon
- Braves' Hector Olivera said his suspension was 'justified'
- Dan Quinn not running from his Arthur Blank's playoff expectations
- Hello again: On Braves' second half, Shelby Miller and Falcons' pass rush
- Keys to success for Hawks, Falcons, Braves? Glad you asked
- Atlanta sports tracking poll: Whose future do you lean toward?
- Why Horford made right decision, and how this affects Millsap
- Budenholzer's makeover of Hawks comes with major risk
- Hawks' signing of Howard: Wrong player, wrong time (updated)
- Losing Horford would mean Hawks' return to irrelevance
- Market for Horford is real, Thunder reportedly clearing space for him
- Hawks can't continue to have top free agents ignore them
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.