DESTIN, Fla. — Nick Saban still seems sore about the Maurice Smith decision last year, which allowed the defensive back to transfer from Alabama to Georgia. The man who made the decision, however, think it worked out well for everybody.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who allowed Smith’s transfer, albeit with stipulations (more on that shortly), was asked during SEC meetings on Tuesday whether he thinks he made the right decision last August.
“I think I made the right decision given the circumstances,” Sankey said. “How some of it plays out will remain to be seen, I guess.”
By that, Sankey meant the academic stipulations that were put on Smith, and whether the player follows through. A quick reminder of the key points:
- Smith, who had graduated from Alabama last August, was required by the SEC to complete nine hours towards his degree during the fall 2016 semester, or else he would not be allowed to compete in the postseason. Smith did that.
- Smith was required to enroll in UGA’s Master of Public Health graduate program, which he assured Sankey was his desired major. Smith has to be a full-time student and earn all Academic Progress Rate (APR) points. If he did not, UGA could not accept any graduate transfers for football until after the 2019 season.
- Finally, if Smith failed to graduate by the summer of 2018, UGA would also not be allowed to get another graduate transfer waiver until the beginning of the 2021 season, or until Smith got his master’s degree at UGA, whichever came first.
These stipulations were a bit more specific than the SEC’s normal graduate transfer policy, but Sankey said “most of them were consistent” with the overall policy. Of course, that very policy is under debate this week, as coaches seek to align the SEC’s graduate transfer policy with the rest of the country, especially as Florida tries to get in Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire.
As for Smith’s situation, Saban said Tuesday that “it got pushed, and we gave.” Indeed, it took public pressure to get Alabama to relent, thus putting it in Sankey’s lap. And everything Sankey has heard thus far is that Smith is doing as he was asked.
“So far that progress has been what we expected,” Sankey said. “So good for everybody involved at this point.”
Of course, this fall Smith will be pursuing an NFL career, having signed as an undrafted free agent with the Miami Dolphins. Kirby Smart has said that UGA could apply for a waiver to the stipulations while Smith is pursuing his pro career.
Saban, when discussing the Smith situation on Tuesday, basically asked what all the hub-bub was about.
“I don’t know what advantage was created by all that,”Saban said. “I don’t know who won anymore games or lost anymore games because of that. I don’t know who benefitted from it. If somebody wants to do some research on that, let me know, and I’d be glad to change my opinion about it.”
Smith started every game at Georgia and was named a defensive team captain. While Georgia had a disappointing 8-5 record, Smith’s pick-six was the difference in a victory over Auburn. Alabama, minus Smith, still made the NCAA championship game.
So unless Saban feels Smith would have been the difference in stopping Clemson’s game-winning touchdown, Sankey would appear to be right: It did work out for everybody involved.