UGA Football

SEC approves two rules regarding graduate transfers, serious misconduct policy

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. AP

Two proposals associated with Georgia were approved by the SEC.

During the final day of the 2018 SEC spring meetings in Florida on Friday, SEC presidents and chancellors voted to allow graduate student-athletes to transfer without penalty within the conference and to extend its serious misconduct policy to cover incoming first-year student-athletes arriving from high school.

Georgia proposed the graduate transfer rule last year, and it was tabled for 2018. This rule was written as an exception into SEC bylaw, which still states undergraduate transfers must serve a year-long residency requirement before being eligible at another school.

Previously, graduate transfers who wanted to leave the SEC had to fulfill a year in residency before earning eligibility to play for another program in the conference. In recent seasons, graduate transfers have received waivers from either their initial institutions or from the SEC to play immediately at another conference school.

Two years ago, defensive back Maurice Smith received a waiver from the SEC to transfer from Alabama to Georgia as a graduate. Last year, running back David Williams left South Carolina for Arkansas with the blessing of Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp.

This year, Alabama offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy has stated his intention to transfer to either Tennessee or Auburn. Alabama head coach Nick Saban has not signed off on a waiver to allow Kennedy to attend another SEC school. However, under NCAA rules, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said, athletic programs can still block players from transferring to certain schools.

That could change soon as this graduate transfer legislation in the SEC comes before a planned NCAA vote to allow student-athletes to grant a notification of transfer instead of requesting permission to leave an institution. If this NCAA rule passes, schools across college athletics will no longer be allowed to block players from transferring to particular institutions.

This week, multiple football coaches — including Georgia’s Kirby Smart, South Carolina’s Will Muschamp and Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt — voiced their support for this graduate transfer legislation.

“I don't see the issue once they graduate and they've done that and have a year of eligibility remaining,” Smart said. “If they want to do that, I think they should be able to do that.”

Saban has long been a proponent for the previous rule limiting intraconference transfer for graduate students. LSU’s Ed Orgeron said he doesn’t like the idea of graduate transfers attending other SEC programs without penalty.

Georgia women’s basketball coach Joni Taylor, who supports the new rule, expressed concern that players could use it to find better playing time at a conference rival. She is in favor of the rule for those who wish to further their academic pursuits.

“If that’s what they’re doing it for, I’m all for that because I want them to get the highest possible education they can while the institution is paying for it,” Taylor said. “I just want to make sure the spirit of the rule is what it’s for. I think you have some cases where the rule is not being used as it was intended. I think that’s where we need to make sure we’re protecting our game.”

Georgia men’s basketball coach Tom Crean also supports the SEC’s graduate transfer legislation and had previous experience with it when he was at Indiana.

In 2015, power forward Max Bielfeldt had a remaining season of eligibility after attending Michigan for four years. However, Michigan did not offer Bielfeldt a scholarship for his fifth year and did not grant a waiver for him to play anywhere in the Big Ten. Bielfeldt eventually won an appeal and played his final season at Indiana.

“If that player believes he can go to another school and he’s given those three or four years and earned his right to graduate, then I think that makes a lot of sense,” Crean said. “I’m in support of the intraconference transfer rule with those things in mind.”

The SEC’s serious misconduct policy, which prevents players with a history of domestic, sexual and interpersonal violence from transferring into league programs, was previously defined at the 2016 SEC spring meetings. Georgia proposed serious misconduct legislation in both 2015 and 2016 before the addition made to it Friday. This particular proposal came from the SEC Executive Committee via the Student-Athlete Conduct Working Group.

The SEC defines serious misconduct as "sexual assault, domestic violence, other forms of sexual violence, dating violence or stalking; or conduct of a nature that creates serious concerns about the safety of others."

"I'm anxious to have less of these instances occurring, period," Sankey said. "I think a statement from this conference that even before you're on our campuses there are expectations about how you conduct your lives — that's a central theme in what we've done over the last three years."