Towers: Restricting transfers a step back for Georgia

Georgia football-Kirby Smart thanks Georgia AD Greg McGarity for unwavering support of football-Georgia Bulldogs
Kirby Smart's philosophy on transfers runs counter to what Athletic Director Greg McGarity had espoused before his arrival.

ATHENS — Georgia has always fancied itself a dignified athletics program. When it comes to institutional policies, the Bulldogs seem to always seek the high road, which is often the hard road. It is reflected in their drug-and-alcohol policies and it is demonstrated in their transfer rules.

Well, make that WAS demonstrated in their transfer rules. Thursday’s news that football coach Kirby Smart placed restrictions on A.J. Turman’s transfer options signals at the very least a change in attitude, if not institutional policy.

As Seth Emerson learned in his conversation with Turman on Thursday, Smart would agree to release the junior running back from his UGA scholarship only under the condition that he not transfer to Florida or Miami. Apparently anywhere else is fine.

Florida, I get. The Gators obviously are in the SEC and in the same division. Never mind what kind impact Turman potentially could make from a talent standpoint, there also is the matter of institutional knowledge with regard to the playbook and things like that. It’s pretty much the industry standard to restrict transfers within the conference.

But Miami? That seems a little petty to me.

Granted, the Hurricanes are coached by former Bulldogs boss Mark Richt. But the only way you run into those guys the next couple of years is a bowl game or the college football playoffs. And that’s the case with virtually any FBS team in the country.

Until now, Georgia had made it clear that if one of its student-athletes was not happy here, they were free to go anywhere else they wanted. Even Georgia Tech.

They let running back J.J. Green — certainly a more productive back than Turman — transfer there just last year. Afterward, UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity spoke of striking an accord with the Yellow Jackets, who a year earlier had refused to let the Bulldogs communicate with basketball player Robert Carter about a possible transfer.

“We’re in agreement there should not be any reasons to not grant the wishes of any student-athlete who might want to transfer between our institutions as long as there has been no tampering,” McGarity said in December of 2014.  “As long there’s been nothing done to recruit a current student-athlete, as long as it’s on the up-and-up – which is the case as I understand it with J.J. — the only downside is that student-athlete may come back and have a great game against you. But if they’re not happy at the University of Georgia, they should be happy somewhere else.”

Seems pretty clear-cut there. But that was with Tech.

McGarity told Emerson on Friday, “that stance has been adjusted.” At least in Turman’s case it was. And now we can’t be sure what to expect.

Turman said only that he wanted to play more and to move closer to his home in Orlando. And he still has plenty of options. The University of Central Florida (UCF), right there in Turman’s backyard, would seem a viable alternative. There is also Florida International, South Florida and, oh yeah, those two schools in Tallahassee.

So he’ll be fine and I suspect Georgia will, too. But that could’ve been done without altering what to date had been a very admirable policy.


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