SEC coaches don’t want transfer rules to lead to free agency

Florida head coach Dan Mullen speaks during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference media days at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Tuesday. (AP Photo/John Amis)

ATLANTA — For all their talk about wanting what is best for players, SEC coaches draw the line at new rules pushing college football closer to free agency.

For those coaches, free agency for players ended on high school signing day.

The Southeastern Conference recently passed new rules making it easier for players to transfer within the league and be immediately eligible without a waiver, either as graduates or when leaving a team hit with NCAA sanctions. Before the new rule, graduate transfers had to sit out a year when moving to a new SEC school.

Such coaches as Georgia’s Kirby Smart and Florida’s Dan Mullen worry the new rules could move the league closer to free agency if more freedoms to players are granted. They cringe at the idea players could be eventually empowered to seek transfers as soon as they drop on the depth chart or are asked to run extra laps.

“I’ve expressed my belief in a guy who graduates from college being able to go where he wants to go,” Smart said Tuesday at SEC Media Days. “I feel very strongly about that, but when you start talking about every year … I’ve got to be honest with you, it’s hard.”

Smart said it would be especially tempting for freshmen, struggling to adjust to college life, to look elsewhere if it were easier for them to transfer.

“It’s not easy your first year in college,” Smart said. “It’s one of the biggest adjustments you go through in life. So to be able to make it easy to leave, I think that’s tough. I think it’s a fine line. I want the players to be able to have the freedom and rights, but it’s tough. Put yourself in that situation when you come in there and you’ve been told how good you are your whole life and it’s difficult to make that transition.”

Smart’s support for graduate transfers having immediate eligibility became well known when he successfully lobbied for defensive back Maurice Smith’s move from Alabama to the Bulldogs in 2016. The league’s decision on Smith helped pave the way for this year’s rules change on graduate transfers.

Mullen says he’s waiting to see if the new rules make a positive impact on the league.

“As it’s implemented and we get to see how it works, it’s hard to say whether it’s going to be good or bad,” Mullen said Tuesday.

“I don’t think anybody wants to get into having free agency in college football. But I think we also want to make sure we’re doing the best we can for student-athletes and the best we can for universities.”

Mullen said he wouldn’t want his two children to have an opportunity to quit instead of working through adversity.

“One of the things I don’t want is to ever have them put in a situation where as soon as something gets hard, I want to transfer, quit or do something else,” he said. “I don’t think that’s good parenting. I don’t think that’s educating young people.”

Some see greater freedoms for players leading to a second recruiting season where coaches look to attract transfers from other schools.

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said he won’t recruit from other schools “at this point.”

“Obviously there’s players who may reach out to us and look at the opportunities, but … we don’t dive into that recruiting as a full process at this point, no,” he said. “Obviously it’s illegal, but you don’t want to turn it into another form of free agency. None of us want that. We are college coaches. We like developing these players and building your teams, and that’s the way I like to do it.”


  1. Presently, the NEW TRANSFER RULE is ONLY for ”graduates” (and what Gator fans didn’t love Canyon Barry, or Igor Koulechov draining 3’s this past b-ball season? Both ‘1’ yr. grad transfers), or schools who get ”busted with the NCAA (and what a joke that is! Who’s the NCAA punishing for the NCAA SCHOOLS who got busted in this past spring’s college basketball scandal? NADA! ”March Madness $$$” means MORE than fair recruiting to the NCAA). So, what’s the bid deal? There isn’t one, in my opinion.
    P.S.- Ask Coach Mullen ‘IF’ he should’ve ”had to sit out a year before signing with Florida.”

  2. I suppose Georgia thinks they have all this talent and are scared once their players figure out what the university of Georgia is all about they will all want to leave like Mark Richt did even after they offered him more money than they have in most of the state.
    I say let a player come to UF. If he is happy he can stay. If it’s not working and he wants to try he has my blessing to find a better spot. And help him find one if need be.
    Look I hated to see emmitt leave after his junior year which is kinda the same thing. But coach Spurrier did the right thing in telling the truth that he should move on and everyone ended up better off.

  3. I agree with the coaches this would be a nightmare in the cutthroat world of recruiting. Just look at this story of OleMiss, MSU and the NCAA investigation of recruiting violations and big money payments to players to get them to sign. Quite a story and a window into the cheating that is rampant in recruiting which explains why some schools are doing so well in recruiting an other honest programs like UF always struggle to get top players! I hear on here so much gripping about Dan Mullen and his failure at recruitjng. Well, go read that story and you will understand why an honest coach like him cant reel in the big fish! Its pay to play, and the NCAA isnt doing a dang thing about it! When u see 1st year coaches making big hauls in recruiting, it’s a sure bet players are being paid to sign. If youre not willing to go read that article 1st, then dont bother making empty disagreements with me on here!

    • You know, one of my greatest pleasures anymore is getting up early and finding out what Daz was thinking at 3AM. Now I find out that if I had just stayed on until 5:29 PM yesterday, I would have known last night! But great post anyway.

    • Quote from your article: “Ask any fan base and they’ll tell you with great passion — and in great detail — how their arch rivals are doing dirty business to get ahead. Ask them if their team is doing the same and they’ll clutch pearls. Everyone cheats but us.”

      Don’t clutch the pearls but ever since Jeremy Foley retired, I worry about some of the stuff that has gone on. Jeremy was all about winning with integrity. Not only that, he kept UF above reproach. He ran a tight ship to keep UF out of scrutiny and was well respected for it across the country.

      Under Stricklin, not so much. Here are some examples:

      1. Going after Chip Kelly, who the NCAA slapped a “failure to monitor” and handed a show-cause penalty.
      2. Tried to get out of McElwain’s buyout on a technicality. If you want to fire him for performance, fine. But don’t try to cheat him out of his contractually agreed upon severance pay on something thin and arguably unrelated to performance.
      3. Recently, Dan Mullen held a cookout for recruits. I wonder if the recruits had to pay for the food.

      • I don’t know Sly — I learned a long time ago not to get into a public debate with you unless I had my ducks in order and counted them twice, kind of like getting into a pissin’ contest c a urologist — but it looks to me like it’s a little early to form that conclusion.

        First of all, I think the sordid history of that coaching search shows that we really didn’t go after Chip Kelly so much as we were taking our time to rule him out, and passed on him in the end rather than the other way around as gleefully reported by the press. Secondly, it was a little more than a technicality when a coach makes allegations about player safety like Mac did, reports it to the media before his boss and LE, and then can’t back it up at all. But I’ll give you the cookout…..I have no idea what is allowed or disallowed in that case. (That was gracious of me, wasn’t it?)

      • 1. I’m not sure but I suspect the Gators brain trust was just kicking the tires on Kelly and after they kicked enough, they walked away. It was not a match made in heaven and both sides knew it. Kelly was one of the hot names in last year’s cycle and the Gators, seeking the best, had to at least check under the hood. Doing due diligence does not mean the new leadership was ready to hire Chip Kelly and Bruce Pearl…..

        2. I’d argue that if they Gators would’ve really wanted to, they could’ve ended up paying Mac much less than they did. So the fact that Mac got what he did, is pretty gracious from my point of view. He did not come close to earning his millions from UF…and I’m not just talking about wins and losses. He set the program back in recruiting, he didn’t uphold his end of the bargain in player development, and he made the program national news fodder with a serious, yet unsubstantiated claim.

        3. Like Gator-6, I don’t know they NCAA legalities of the cookout, but I’d bet your 401(k) that the UF compliance folks vetted this one up and down before allowing the cookout to proceed.
        So I do not see a loosening of moral, ethic, or legal standards at UF under Stricklin. But I do see a much better hire of Head Football Coach 🙂

      • The last time the Gators really got their players was under Meyer, just as Oh ST is now. It is clear even from the article that Mullen is clean and the fact that he isnt getting the recruits that even some new SEC coaches are, also makes it clear that he isnt paying to play. So I dont need to clutch pearls!
        Regarding McElwain, UF had the right to fire him for cause. He made up a story that damaged the University and slandered the fan base, then he reported it to the media in violation of policy rather than to the police and to the University. The fact that he did not report it to the police, then refused to give any details to the university(because it was a lie so there were no details) was evidence enough that it was a lie, so they relayed to him that he could be fired for cause. They didnt owe him a cent and he had served that morsel up to them on a platter! They negotiated a buyout so as to not have to prove that point in a drawn out court battle. I so wish they had not done that as they would have prevailed and it would have proved that his actions were cause to fire him. I said at the time that his slander had damaged recruiting for years! What parent wants their child to go to a school where their life isnt safe because a fan might kill them! He certainly damaged the University financially, the only saving grace was that to MOST people, I believe he was shown up because of his lack of candor and the vicious way he went about it, as I stated above.

  4. I go back and forth on this subject. Is it any different when a coach leaves. Maybe the rule should be you can transfer without penalty if the head coach that recruits you leaves, then you can also petition to leave without penalty.

  5. I hope all the Jeremy Foley haters read the SBNation article. The Muschamp hire was a mistake in hindsight. But at the time it was as good as the Jimbo Fisher, or the Kirby Smart–star coordinators from top level programs. And for that matter, so was going after McElwain. All four of those guys are pieces in Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. And I hope Gator-6 is right. Chip Kelly would have been a disaster. Kelly is SOS without a modicum of class or a moral compass. And if the powers that be didn’t know that, the Gators could be in trouble down the road.

    • Jimbo and Kirby happened to work out. With that said, UF should NEVER be a training ground for a coordinator no matter how bright their star is. Jimbo and Fisher have some additional things working out for them as well. Jimbo was already the defacto HC at FSU for a year or two. Kirby is a UGA grad, spent almost a decade under Saban running Saban’s signature side of the game, and was ready to be a HC years ago. UGA was the perfect place for him.

      If one of those perfect opportunities come around, fine. Otherwise, UF NEVER needs to gamble its future on an unproven HC.

      • Tj, you just said a mouthful. There was no excuse for Zook, but Muschamp’s credentials seduced the entire football world at the time, and it sure would have been better had he tried out in a Group of Five HC job first. Who knew? But for every Smart or Fisher out there, there’s always a lot more smoke bringers who aren’t ready yet no matter how they look on paper or who vouches for them.