There is a disturbing story trending on the college football wires. It involves Alabama defensive back Maurice Smith, who is set to graduate on Saturday.
Forget the pomp, though, because here is his circumstance: Smith, on June 16, reportedly asked Alabama for his release so he could play his fifth-year at Georgia.
He was denied. Not only was he denied, he was treated like a traitor. According to the transfer appeal statement obtained by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Smith arrived at the athletic facility locker room June 17 to "find my locker cleaned out and all of my personal belongings in the trash." Some of these items, according to Smith, were family photos and sentimental items memorializing a deceased friend.
We're still waiting for Alabama's side on this, but basically: what a crock. What a shame. What blatant, unbelievable hypocrisy.
Under SEC rules, a graduate transfer must sit out a year before going to another school.
Sounds more like North Korea than America.
Alabama was voted preseason No.1 on Thursday in the first USA Today coaches' poll. That's great, but what the Tide may have done to Smith is as polluted as the Olympic waters of Rio.
Here's the richest part. Smith chose Georgia in part because Kirby Smart, the Crimson Tide's former defensive coordinator, is the Bulldogs' new coach.
Wait...Smart did not have to sit out a year before taking the Georgia job?
What an absolute joke. Nick Saban, who makes $10 million a year, could leave tomorrow to coach in the NFL. In fact, he's already done it once: leaving LSU for the Miami Dolphins.
Smith's mother told the AJC she thinks Alabama is trying to "slow play" the transfer so as to limit her son's options.
Understanding college football is a competitive, slimy game, Alabama football should be bigger than this.
It should release Smith immediately with these words "Thank you for your service."
The problem isn't confined to Saban and Alabama. Holding up ANY graduating player's hopes and dreams is wrong everywhere, all the time, in every conference, at every divisional level.
College football coaches and administrators talk a blue streak about taking care of the needs of "student-athletes." Fearing lawsuits and harm to their sacred cash cow, power-five commissioners have pushed through legislation to give players "real cost of attendance" stipends.
Yet, a coach and a conference can spike strip a player who has fulfilled his obligation to the university by, um, graduating?
The nerve of this guy, getting his diploma.
Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott, who pocketed $4 million last year, has no such transfer restrictions. He could leave tomorrow to become the head of MGM Studios--and would have every right to do so.
There are many reasons why a collegiate player might want to play his fifth year at another institution and none of them should be blocked.
The reasons could be personal, financial or simply wanting more playing time.
Personal disclaimer: Our family joyfully took advantage of the NCAA's fifth-year transfer rule with my son, who graduated from Fordham in the spring of 2015 after playing two seasons on the golf team. He had another year of athletic eligibility but, frankly, his parents couldn't afford another year of private school tuition.
So, he entered the graduate Humanities program at Cal State Dominguez and played his fifth season for the Toros. He had a blast, excelled in school and even helped lead his golf team to its highest-finish ever in conference.
What harm did that cause?
Thank goodness he did not have to sit out a year.
We understand why coaches don't want players transferring, especially within conference. Coaches are control freaks. Players are brainwashed from birth to hate opposing schools. That said, a player who graduates has earned the right to dictate the terms of his next move without having to be held up, or humiliated.
Period, end of story.
There is a lot of lip-service paid these days about improving the conditions of football players who, by the way, help contribute millions of dollars to Alabama and its coaching staff.
For Alabama to treat a prospective graduate with dishonor is disgraceful.
No wonder athletes are filing lawsuits and threatening to unionize.
No wonder collegiate athletics are a runaway wreck.
But hey, other than that, Roll Tide!