Saban questions if transfers would create 'free agency in the SEC'
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Nick Saban believes there is a time and place for transfers within the SEC. He also knows there are rules limiting them.
The Alabama head coach was asked his opinion of SEC coaches blocking transfers within the conference on Wednesday during the Regions Tradition Pro-Am. The question came a week after AL.com reported that Alabama was blocking former offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy from transferring from Tennessee.
“We have an SEC rule about do we want to have free agency within our conference,” Saban said. “I think there are certain circumstances and situations where it may be better for the student-athlete. In those cases, I would be supportive of guys doing it. I’ve done it in the past, I’ve not done it in the past. I do think this whole transfer thing is something we should look at more at a thousand feet. We don’t like to get put in the middle of these rules as coaches. I think none of us do.
“We have rules, but yet we’re not supposed to abide by the rules and they reflect poorly on us when we try to support the rules that we have. The rules that we have, we have for a reason and I just stated the reason. Do we want free agency in the SEC? Should guys be able to leave your team and go play for somebody else next year that you have to play against? I do feel that there are cases where that may be a viable option if it’s for academic reasons.”
Kennedy, who was Alabama’s backup center this spring, graduated in May. If he is allowed to play for Tennessee next season he will go up against his old team on Oct. 20 when the Crimson Tide travels to Knoxville to take on the Volunteers.
Saban previously tried to block graduate Maurice Smith from transferring to Georgia in 2016, but the defensive back was eventually allowed to join the Bulldogs after he was granted a waiver by the SEC. Alabama did not play Georgia that year.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was also asked about blocking graduate transfers within the conference, stating “it just depends on the situation.”
“You know, the grad transfer, that’s kind of a new deal. There’s no doubt about that,” Malzahn said. “I think each school has their own policies and opinions.”
The SEC generally frowns on graduate transfers moving from one conference team to another as players are usually required to sit out one season. However, the topic will most likely be brought up during the annual SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Fla., later this month.
“I think it’s a hot topic on a national basis, and I think something’s going to happen. I don’t really know what,” Saban said. “And if the rule changes I don’t even have a clue what it might be or what it might change to.”