ATHENs — When Maurice Smith informed Alabama of his intention to transfer, his locker was cleaned out, personal belongings thrown in the trash, he was banned from using the athletic facility, and he generally felt “ostracized.”
That’s according to a letter Smith wrote to Alabama’s appeal committee on July 1, which was provided to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday by Smith’s mother, Samyra.
Smith, a senior defensive back who is due to graduate from Alabama on Saturday, wants to transfer to Georgia, but is being denied by Alabama, citing SEC rules.
In the letter, Maurice Smith said he met with Alabama head coach Nick Saban and informed him of his decision to transfer on June 16. Saban informed Smith – who had finished spring practice with the first team at nickel back – that he would not allow him to transfer to another SEC school. That ended the conversation.
“On Friday, June 17, I arrived at the athletic facility locker room to find my locker cleaned out and all of my personal belongings in the trash (photo attached) underneath trash,” Maurice Smith wrote. “These personal items included my family photos, written goals, inspirational and sentimental items memorializing my deceased former friend, roommate and teammate, Altee Tenpenny, and items of personal value from my former teammates.”
Alabama declined to comment when asked about the letter on Wednesday.
Smith’s family provided copies of a text message, the sender of which was blacked out, the text of which said: “Bro I can’t have u at facility. Not for workout, lunch, anything. All in or out policy. Sorry bro.”
Alabama eventually permitted Smith to return to using its athletic facility, about two weeks ago, according to Samyra Smith.
Another photo was provided of what Smith’s family says are his personal items thrown in the trash. Who threw them in the trash isn’t clear, but they said the message was clear.
The process actually began on June 13, according to the letter, when Smith initially requested a “permission to contact” from Alabama’s compliance department.
“I was immediately contacted by UA coaching assistants and advised I would no longer be able to “work-out” with the team,” Smith wrote.
Smith’s family says the letter shows that that Alabama and Saban have slow-played the process. Georgia began practice on Monday, while Alabama begins on Thursday.
“These are obvious tactics to stall the process and keep him here by eliminating options to transfer,” Samyra Smith said in an e-mail on Wednesday.
On June 16, Saban met with Smith and, according to Smith’s letter, told him he didn’t need a “formal document” to speak with other schools. Smith insisted on one. When Saban asked where Smith wanted to go to school, Smith named a few, and Saban told him he would not release him to any SEC schools. Smith then received a “permission to contact” form.
Three days after that, an unidentified Alabama staffer told Smith that he could no longer work out at the athletic facility. Three days after that, Smith was told that another staffer advised him he was no longer allowed at the athletic facility “to workout, to eat, or anything.”
“Although I had done nothing wrong, I basically was ostracized from the team and felt I was being forced to make a decision to transfer,” Smith wrote.
On June 23, Smith e-mailed Alabama’s compliance department and requested a release to transfer to Georgia.
Saban called Samyra Smith on June 27 and, according to the letter, “advised that transferring to Georgia was not an option, from his standpoint, and that he would not allow it, and that the SEC commissioner agreed with him.” Saban also met with Maurice Smith that day, and told him he was renewing his grant-in-aid, rather than release him.
The next day, Smith met again with Saban. Since he was not being released to Georgia, Smith asked to be released to Miami. Saban apparently agreed to that.
But when Smith went to the compliance department, he had a change of heart after being given official notification of his transfer request to UGA being denied.
“I felt confused and unfairly treated and did not pursue the release to UM. Although things appeared hopeless, I communicated with my parents who told me to follow my heart and if UGA was where I felt I would have success, I should not back down and should pursue it.”
Smith then formally declared that he would not accept the grant-in-aid for the 2016-17 term.
“As it stands, the recent actions of the UA athletic staff have already sealed their intention to no longer include me as a part of the team. Their actions have demonstrated their non-renewal of aid whether intentional or non-intentional, it is not par for the course and sends a clear message that the rights and privileges that are extended per the aid received as a student-athlete of the University of Alabama, no longer apply to me.”
The letter finished with Smith saying he was proud of graduating from Alabama in three years, and now asked that his appeal to transfer to Georgia be immediately granted. He asked for an expedited review, pointing to the time necessary to apply to UGA’s graduate school and to meet NCAA requirements to play at a new school.
“Please do not punish my success and instead reward the efforts of discipline, and determination that UA requires in all of their student-athletes to succeed,” Smith wrote, before signing off.