It appears Maurice Smith‘s extended nightmare — and Alabama’s national embarrassment — has nearly come to an end.
Pending SEC approval, TideSports.com first reported, UA’s athletic department has granted Smith a full release to transfer wherever he wants, including inside of the conference. Smith has very publicly stated that he wants to transfer to Georgia, but head coach Nick Saban had steadfastly refused to grant a release to another SEC program.
Wednesday, however, Saban acknowledged that he had relented, leaving any decision moving forward in the hands of the conference.
“We have done everything that we can do institutionally to allow the conference to make the decision about whatever they decide is in the best interest of the conference and the SEC rules relative to Maurice Smith,” Saban said according to al.com. “So that is past us now. It is beyond us. We don’t really need to talk about that anymore and I don’t have any other comments to make about it.”
A source confirmed to al.com that Smith has already applied for a waiver with the SEC that, as a grad transfer, would grant him immediate eligibility at Georgia if approved. UGA has already kicked off summer camp, and Smith still needs to apply to and be accepted at a grad school at the university; in a statement, the SEC said that the “[t]he intent is for the waiver process to be handled in an efficient but deliberate manner, so the timeline for resolution of a waiver request varies with each unique situation.”
Below is the SEC’s full statement:
As part of the SEC waiver process, a due diligence procedure ensures that pertinent information from the involved parties is gathered. This information is gathered for the purpose of a thoughtful and appropriate consideration of the particular facts associated with each case. The intent is for the waiver process to be handled in an efficient but deliberate manner, so the timeline for resolution of a waiver request varies with each unique situation.
“The SEC does not provide waivers of SEC rules absent circumstances that demonstrate a clear reason for granting an exception to those rules. Each waiver request is reviewed on a case by case basis.
The situation involving Smith has renewed the debate once again as to why coaches are free to move about the country whenever they so desire — restricted only by their or their new employer’s ability to pay a buyout — but players, especially players who have already graduated, are restricted by arcane bylaws at both the NCAA and conference levels.
Petulance is never a good look, especially for a profession that makes millions of dollars off the backs of student-athletes who are treated like employees but don’t enjoy the same benefits. Or respect when it comes to moving on.