ATHENS — Just tossed them in the trash. That’s what Alabama did with Maurice Smith’s personal belongings in his locker at the Crimson Tide’s football complex this summer. Just chucked them in a garbage can.
Quite a metaphor there, isn’t it?
What did Smith do? He had to gall to consider finishing his football career somewhere other than Alabama.
Is he a bad kid? Apparently not. He’s graduating from the Capstone on Saturday.
Was he a bad player? Apparently not. He played in 41 games for the Crimson Tide the last three seasons. He started only two of those, but he participated in all of them — including the national championship game in January — either as a backup defensive back or on special teams
Alabama issued a statement on the situation Thursday and stood firm on its policy not to allow transfers within the conference, even though they just did.
Coach Nick Saban will address the media later this afternoon when Alabama holds its preseason football news conference in Tuscaloosa. I’m assuming he’ll expound on the school’s handling of Smith’s transfer request at that time — if he feels like it, of course. Or they may just refer to their statement and be done with it.
In any case, I don’t know what he could possibly say that will make the Crimson Tide look good coming out of this. There’s really not much perfume you can put on this story that will make it smell good.
Oh, I’ve read enough of the social media reaction to know that the Bama faithful will see no wrong done by their coach or their program. “So thankful that our motivation is strictly championships,” @BamaBelleinGeorgia made sure I saw on Twitter.
But those are fans. Anybody sniffing this from an objective point of view has to agree that it stinks to high heaven.
Look, I get the SEC’s transfer rules and the fact that you can’t have underclassmen flitting from program to program unencumbered. Certainly Kirby Smart lost some ethical high ground when he moved to block running back A.J. Turman from transferring to Miami when he sought to leave Georgia this spring.
But the whole aspect of this case that differentiates it from any other for me is the fact that the kid is graduating. On Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Smith is set to walk across a stage at the University of Alabama and pick up his undergraduate degree. He earned it in three years, by the way. And he did it while doing everything the Tide’s coaches and administrators asked him to do athletically and academically. He did it while playing in 41 games over the last three seasons and helping Alabama win SEC and national championships.
But now Smith apparently wants a change of scenery. With a season of eligibility left to play, Smith intends to take advantage of the NCAA’s graduate transfer policy and finish his career elsewhere. Despite all that time and energy expended a Alabama, he started only two games. So he’d like to play more. And now he has a graduate degree to consider.
By all accounts, Smith wants to execute his fresh start at UGA. That makes sense, if you think about it. Georgia has an exemplary reputation with regard to its postgraduate studies program. And Smith has more than a little familiarity with Smart and Mel Tucker, for whom he toiled in previous seasons at Alabama.
But Alabama took this notion as some kind of personal affront. How dare you not want to finish your career with us, they seem to be saying. So enraged were the Crimson Tide that they saw fit to toss Smith’s belongings from his locker into a trash can. They didn’t even bother gathering them in a trash bag and telling him to come get them. They just dumped them.
How do we know this? Smith included a picture of his belongings buried under garbage with his letter to the Alabama appeals committee asking him to approve his transfer request way back on July 1. They denied him, of course.
And you know who threw Smith’s stuff in the trash? Nick Saban did.
No, I don’t believe Saban actually walked down to the locker room from his posh office at Alabama’s football facility. But this is a man who commands total and complete control of that program. Saban has personally met with Smith about this situation at least three times since Smith sought permission to contact other schools on June 13th. Smith’s letter cites at least seven occasions in which Saban personally weighed in on the matter since it first came up.
Saban kind of reminds me of Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie “A Few Good Men,” Col. Nathan Jessup and the ordering of the Code Red. He is, after all, the coach who coined the phrase, “one voice, one message.”
Well, Coach, everybody has heard your message on this one loud and clear. And it stinks.