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Nick Saban Doesn't Want You To Blame Him For Restricting His Players' Transfers

Illustration for article titled Nick Saban Doesn't Want You To Blame Him For Restricting His Players' Transfers
Photo: Brian Blanco (Getty Images)

Alabama offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy, who graduated in December but still has three years of eligibility remaining, was hoping to go to Auburn or Tennessee as a grad transfer next season. But so far, he’s been blocked by his now-alma mater from transferring to any SEC schools or future Alabama opponents. This kind of extreme control for graduated players sounds like it shouldn’t be allowed, but even after players finish their degrees, it’s legal for their schools to force them to sit out a year if they desire, and it’s a tool often used by coaches to keep those “student-athletes” away from direct competitors.


Nick Saban got asked about this shitty situation Tuesday and did a good job of shifting the blame in a lengthy, sanctimonious answer that criticized the SEC for forcing a waiver for transfers wishing to play immediately, while sidestepping the fact that Saban could easily provide that waiver if he wished.

“I don’t think it should be on me. I think we should change the rule,” Saban said, though the rule grants him the power to let transfers play immediately. “Why is it on me?” Saban asked multiple times. “It’s not even my decision.”

As our Nick Martin pointed out when Coach K tried this bullshit, the consistent efforts from the most powerful men in college sports to gesture vaguely at the restrictions of a higher authority when confronted with injustices is getting pretty dang annoying. While Saban’s right, in a Machiavellian way, that there’s no reason for him to surrender a competitive advantage when it’s within the rules for him to keep players away from his rivals, he also holds more ability to affect change than anyone else in the SEC, and maybe college football as a whole. Nick Saban is the SEC, so if he truly wants a rule change to happen, there’s very little that can stop him. At the very least, acting like his hands are tied when they’re not at all is just insulting to a player who’s already completed his degree from his school, which is all the NCAA claims to want for its athletes.

And that’s without even getting into the second half of his answer, where Saban got into some boilerplate NCAA-branded nonsense about making sure players go to class instead of transferring when you get tough with them, which completely ignores the fact that Brandon Kennedy already graduated:

Let me ask you a question: If we make a rule that guys can transfer whenever they want to transfer, how are we supposed to get people to do what they should do? I’m not talking about as football players, I’m talking about as people. I’m talking about making good choices and decisions off the field, I’m talking about doing the right things academically.

If a guy is missing class and I say, ‘You’re not going to play in this game because you’re missing class,’ which I’ve done on occasion, and he says, ‘I’m transferring,’ is that good? I’m not saying it’s good or bad, I’m asking you all a question. You don’t ever seem to answer the questions like I have to.

Saban should feel lucky that Michigan State, LSU, and the Miami Dolphins all allowed him to transfer without missing a year.