Recently, the Southeastern Conference meetings in Destin, Fla. made a big splash in the lives of college athlete transfers. In the past, players had to get a waiver from the school they’re transferring from to be eligible immediately. And, for the most part, no coach would sign that waiver; even if the student already received their degree.
Recently, Nick Saban caught a lot of flak for not allowing graduate transfer center Brandon Kennedy to handover freely to either Tennessee or Auburn, who both appear to have interest in the graduate. Kennedy even unsuccessfully appealed to Alabama. That will no longer be the case. Graduate transfers can now freely transfer within the SEC without the all-encompassing, all-important waiver.
Saban isn’t the only coach to block players like this, but he seems to be the one most in the news most for it. Last year, a defensive back named Maurice Smith wanted to transfer to Georgia to play for Kirby Smart, his former defensive coordinator. Saban balked, but outrage from the public eventually forced Alabama to sign the waiver and Smith was allowed to play immediately.
Another rule change in the transfer process will directly affect the University of Florida Gators. Van Jefferson, the talented receiver from the University of Mississippi, can now play immediately for Florida. After struggling heavily last year, the Gators need all the help they can get on offense. The new change states a player can transfer freely within the conference without a waiver if his team is facing National Collegiate Athletic Association sanctions.
Ole Miss faces a ban for the 2018 season after the NCAA penalized them for a large number of recruiting violations stemming from former coach Hugh Freeze. “The University of Mississippi lacked institutional control and fostered a culture of booster involvement in football recruiting according to a Division I committee of infractions panel,” is the statement cited in the NCAA’s report.
This could continue to hurt Ole Miss if a few other players decide to transfer within the conference. There would have likely been more transfers had this rule been applied earlier. Ole Miss has already lost Jefferson to Florida and Shae Patterson (QB) to Michigan. Had this rule already been passed, it would have been interesting to see if Patterson would have transferred within the conference, too.
Both of these rule changes actually seem like the right thing to do for student athletes, which is a rarity among the NCAA and SEC. The offseason could get very interesting now.