ATHENS — Maurice Smith, a defensive back who is set to graduate from Alabama this month, wants to transfer to Georgia, where he would be eligible to play this season. But Smith’s mother said the potential move is being blocked by Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
“He wants to go to Georgia. Period,” Samyra Smith said on Tuesday night. “That’s where he wants to go.”
Samyra Smith said she met on Tuesday with Saban in his office in Tuscaloosa. Smith drove from Houston, Texas, on Tuesday morning for the meeting, which did not result in a resolution.
“The university is continuing to be resistant to any request to release my son. That’s where we are,” Samyra Smith said. “In (Saban’s) mind, the best decision is for him to stay here. And he doesn’t think anything other than that is best for the kid.”
Alabama begins practice on Thursday. Georgia began practice on Monday. Smith is due to graduate on Saturday. As a graduate student, Smith would be eligible to play immediately, but must receive a release from the former school.
For some time now there has been a fight behind the scenes over Smith, and it’s now in the open, in a way pitting new Georgia head coach Kirby Smart against his mentor, Saban.
Smith and his family have gone through what his mother referred to as an appeal, a hearing, and a written request to be released to Georgia. She said her son has only had limited contact with Smart and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, who were both at Alabama last year.
Smith was Alabama’s first team nickel-back during the spring. He was a backup defensive back the past few years, but played extensively on special teams, finishing last season with 15 tackles and a sack.
Smith, listed in last year’s media guide at 6-foot and 195 pounds, is from Sugar Land, Texas. He was a consensus four-star prospect coming out of high school, and played in the Under Armour All-American game.
When Smith initially decided to leave Alabama, according to his mother, his first choice was Baylor. It was closer to home and he knew the secondary coach there.
But then the scandal at Baylor broke out, and Smith turned his attention to Georgia, where Smart and Tucker were. But Alabama has continued to decline to agree on a move anywhere within the SEC, and in her mind has delayed the process in an effort to keep him at Alabama.
“They’re being difficult. Intentionally,” Samyra Smith said. “It’s his choice. It should be his choice, if he wants to leave here, he should be able to do that. ….
“He wants to go where he feels like he’ll have the level of success he wants to have. It may work, it may not. But it should be his choice.”
Earlier this year, Alabama did not put a block on Chris Black, who graduated from Alabama and transferred to Missouri, another SEC school.
Nick Saban, left, and Kirby Smart worked in sync at Alabama, but now are competing over one of Smart’s former defensive backs at Alabama. (BRANT SANDERLIN/AJCC)
“So what is it, is it really about my son, or is it about Kirby Smart and Nick Saban? I don’t know what it is” Samyra Smith said. “You just had a player leave, Chris Black, and he’s at an SEC school, Mizzou. So don’t tell me it’s about a violation of rules, I can read you the rules, I understand them well. It’s not a violation of rules or else the SEC would’ve stopped it, the commissioner would’ve stopped it. But it’s allowed.
“So you make the choice about what’s best for the child, if you truly care about the kid. Because knowing he’s not happy here, the next-best option for him is going to a program where he’s the most comfortable, where he can have a level of success that he believes he can have.”
An Alabama spokesman did not immediately have a response when contacted by SEC Country on Tuesday night. Last month Saban was asked about the situation at SEC media days.
“Maurice Smith has been a good player on our team,” Saban said. “He’s a good person, and he would be a significant contributor to our team this year if he decided to stay at Alabama. … We have told him, ‘Because we support the SEC rule, it would not be in your best interest to have to sit out. If you want to go some place else (outside the SEC), we’d be glad to help you do that.’”
The SEC’s rule on in-conference transfers is the same for graduate transfers as it is for regular ones.
The situation is an interesting turn in Alabama-Georgia relationship, given Smart serving under Saban the past nine years.And earlier this year Smart put a block on a player, A.J. Turman, from transferring to other SEC schools as well as Miami. (Turman did not want to go to Miami, but Smart said he wanted to set a precedent that players couldn’t follow former head coach Mark Richt to the Hurricanes.)
Smart probably cannot comment specifically on Smith, per NCAA recruiting rules, but if he wanted to speak generally, his next scheduled availability isn’t until Saturday morning.
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