Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Kirby Smart is wrong ... but then so is everybody else on transfers


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Given that reaction over this new Kirby Smart transfer policy at Georgia isn't going away -- and even moved ESPN sports talk host Mike Greenberg to weigh in with a scolding of Smart: "Shame on you" (really?) -- I figure it's time to share my thoughts on the subject.

• The only reason I wasn't aghast at Smart's decision to put restrictions on running back A.J. Turman's transfer was, frankly, the kid didn't seem all that upset about it publicly. People have made a big deal about the fact Smart listed Miami among the schools Turman couldn't transfer to, but Turman is on record as saying he was not going to go there anyway.

• I liked Mark Richt's "life's too short" policy. I also like Georgia's tough anti-drug and alcohol policy that calls for mandatory suspensions. (Sophomore defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter was just suspended for one game for underage drinking and having a false identification.) But I also believe there needs to be a uniform policy regarding these transfer situations and a uniform drug and alcohol policy across the NCAA at the FBS level, or at the very least across the "Power 5" conferences.

• No, I don't think Smart was justified in toughening Georgia's transfer policy. But I would prefer that every other school lightens up theirs. If it were up to me, every time a coach leaves for another job, players would be free to transfer to the school of their choice. If a coach is fired or retires, I also would allow players to consider their options. The reality is that when most recruits sign their letter of intent, they're doing so because of the head coach, not because of the university or the football program.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart is catching some heat for the football program's new restrictive transfer policy. (Brant Sanderlin / bsanderlin@ajc.com)

• You might say of an open transfer policy, "That would bring chaos!" My response is, "What do we have now?" Coaches leave in the middle of contracts. Coaches run off players who didn't meet their expectations from recruiting two years earlier. "Four-year" scholarships really are one-year, renewable contracts. Why should coaches, schools and conferences have all the power when most of the decisions that are being made is to benefit themselves, not the student-athlete? Allowing free movement of players won't bring chaos because there's already chaos.

• Nobody should have been surprised by Smart toughening the policy. He learned under Nick Saban. Are we to believe that if a running back who wasn't getting enough carries in Saban's offense at Alabama went to him and said, "Coach Saban, I would like to transfer to Auburn or LSU. Do I have your blessing?" that Saban would say yes? Really? (On a related note, an Alabama columnist took a shot at Smart in a column, but strangely I didn't see Alabama's policy addressed anywhere in there.)

• Smart is taking some heat and he should take some heat. So should athletic director Greg McGarity. He fully endorsed Richt's no-transfer policy but now he suddenly backs Smart. So I guess we know who's really in charge.

I suspect Smart is not going to back down from this until other SEC schools do the same. That may not happen any time soon.

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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.