Kirby Smart walked into a crowded room with reporters knowing beforehand what everyone gathered wanted to talk about.
After 15 seasons of players being able to transfer anywhere they wanted, Smart has decided to change Georgia’s stance and place restrictions on certain places players can go if they choose to leave. On Saturday, Smart defended the decision to restrict former Georgia running back A.J. Turman from transferring to either Miami or Florida, saying he wasn’t going to allow players to potentially follow one another and go compete for former head coach Mark Richt, who is now leading the Hurricanes.
“One of the reasons I put Miami on there is I wanted to set the precedent that in the future kids would not be able to go to Miami right away,” Smart said. “It’s very important that we understand that, and that’s pretty much standard operating procedure — when a coach leaves one place that a kid can’t go there with the coach. That’s important to me that people understand that.”
Smart is concerned about a domino effect occurring with other potential transfers. If one player is allowed to go play for Richt, more could follow suit if they decide they don’t want to be with Georgia coming out of spring practice.
Smart didn’t seem apologetic about his stance. He admitted not wanting Turman to transfer at all initially because he wanted the running back, who hasn’t seen one game snap during his career at Georgia, to give his staff a chance to make it work.
After meeting with athletics director Greg McGarity, and with the two agreeing to the new transfer stance, Smart decided to allow Turman to leave but with the restrictions in place.
Smart also noted that the SEC has its own restrictions in place for student-athletes, in which they cannot receive a scholarship if they transfer within the conference. In addition, student-athletes are forced to lose a year of eligibility in all SEC sports if they do so.
“They have that rule for a reason and the main reason the SEC has the rule is to keep other teams from recruiting kids from current (kids) on the roster within the SEC,” Smart said. “So we all adhere to that rule, and that’s a rule I believe in. I don’t believe in allowing kids to transfer within conference.”
According to Smart, Turman told him that he wanted to transfer to a school closer to home, which is Orlando, Florida. Smart said Turman told him he didn’t want to go to Miami and that he’ll be able to end up at a school he wants to play for. Smart also said Turman has not filed an appeal on Georgia’s restriction, while Turman told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he did.
Smart said the stance on transfers will be decided on an individual basis. At Alabama, where Smart was the defensive coordinator previously, some players have been allowed to transfer with very few restrictions while others have been denied a release altogether.
Smart also noted there’s an incentive to prevent transfers if possible, given the importance recruiting has in college football.
“Moving forward, where it’s more important to know, we will not release kids to SEC schools unless it’s a special situation and we will handle those situations on a case-by-case basis,” Smart said. “There are very few situations where you want a kid going to a team on your schedule or somebody in your league. That’s pretty much standard operating procedure. The reasons for that is two or three fold. You don’t want a kid being negative in recruiting when he’s at another place and you are trying to protect the interest of your team and the rest of our team here. And you don’t want to have to play against him for obvious reasons. So we’ll handle those going forward. (McGarity) and I have talked about it on a case-by-case basis.”