It’s time to release the release.
Enough already with this crazy notion that a college coach should have any control over the next place a player plays. Grown men controlling where a college kid chooses to attend college is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. And I’m incredulous that it is still allowed after all these years.
By now, all SEC fans know the saga of Maurice Smith, the former Alabama player now playing for Georgia. The SEC granted Smith a waiver to transfer to Georgia as a graduate student and play immediately. That was the right decision, the only decision, the league could make. The NCAA has a rule in place – a good rule, I might add – that allows a student to transfer from one FBS school to another and play immediately if the student has graduated. It is an enticement for a player to work toward graduation, and it rewards a player who has gotten there.
The SEC has some funky sidebars to that transfer rule – they want their schools not to take a student who doesn't have at least two years of eligibility left and they don't want players from going from one league school to another. By granting Smith his waiver, the league essentially realized that those two sidebars are archaic at best and need to be kicked to the curb.
But the worst transfer rule is an NCAA rule – the one that allows the school from where the player is transferring, graduate or not, to place limitations on where the player can go. I am astounded that, in this day and age of increased scrutiny on the well-being of the student athlete, the NCAA still allows that. This isn't a business enforcing a non-compete clause. It is an institution of higher learning trying to deny a college student a chance to advance his education elsewhere. It is abominable.
Think about it. A player has decided he made the wrong choice, or it isn't working out, or he wants more playing time. For whatever reason, he has decided he wants to play at a different school. If the player is from an FBS school and chooses to transfer to another FBS school, he has to sit out one full year of competition, then can continue his playing career. If the player transfers down, to the FCS ranks or to Division II or III, he doesn't have to sit out. But here is the kicker: The coach at the school from which he is leaving has to grant that player a release to receive immediate grant-in-aid from any other NCAA institution. And the coach can choose the schools to which he releases the player. If the player goes to a school to which his previous coach has not released him, he cannot receive scholarship monies for a full year. So if he can't pay his way for the first year, he can't go.
So a coach at School X can determine whether a player transferring out of his school can receive scholarship money from School Y. It's a preposterous system.
We've seen it play out this year. I'm pretty sure Alabama coach Nick Saban did not want to release Smith to Georgia to play for his former coordinator, Kirby Smart (even though, technically, the waiver had to come from the league, not Alabama). Yet Saban did not appear to get in the way when Tide receiver Chris Black moved within the league to Missouri as a graduate transfer.
Smart isn't innocent, either. He refused to release A. J. Turman to Miami, Georgia Tech or any SEC school. There are similar examples every year in every conference. And it is wrong every time.
Begrudgingly, I can live with the part of the rule that mandates underclassmen sit out one year after transferring. Without that, there would be a free-for-all of transfers. Every player the least bit unhappy would hold the threat of quit-and-transfer over the coach's head. In a dog-eat-dog, win-or-be-fired world, coaches would poach players at an alarming rate.
Because of the need to sit out a full year, which is a long time for a player who probably hasn't played much in college any way, the transferring player has to be really sure he wants to do it. Unless, of course, he is a graduate, in which case he has earned the right to play right away.
But if the player is willing to sit out the year, and can find another school that will take him and give him a scholarship, he should be able to go, no questions asked. How dare there be a rule that allows his previous coach to decide where he can and can't go.
I applaud Richt, who never put a transfer stipulation on a player. He reiterated again recently that his policy has never changed and never will. His take was life's too short to get caught up in where a player who doesn't want to play for him any longer ends up. That is the right approach. More coaches should take it.
It is a coach's job to make the college experience a positive one for the player; that is, after all, what he guaranteed the player and his parent it would be. And if it is not – and sometimes life works out that way and it can't be helped – then do the right thing and step out of the way and let the player move on with his life.
The real culprit is the NCAA. The governing body should pass legislation that doesn't put the coach in that position in the first place. Look, Saban is not the bad guy; neither is Smart. Nor are the other coaches who stand their ground on this. But this unthinkable NCAA release rule puts the coach in a situation in which it appears he has to choose his loyalty – to his institution or the player. That should never be the choice.
The NCAA should take action and do so immediately. It should take the concept that a current coach has to release a student to play for another school, wad it up, throw it in an incinerator, then blow up the damn incinerator.
Let's release the release once and for all.
(You can follow Frank Frangie on Twitter @Frank_Frangie)
© 2016, Frank Frangie. All rights reserved.
© 2016, gridironnow.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.