SEC's transfer rules don't make sense

ByMark Schlabach ESPN logo
Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton stole a laptop at Florida, went to junior college, and eventually transferred to Auburn, where he guided the Tigers to the 2010 BCS national championship.

Nick Marshall was accused of stealing from his Georgia teammates, was dismissed from the team and went to junior college, before later transferring to Auburn, where he guided the Tigers to a spot in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game.

Quarterback Zach Mettenberger was kicked off Georgia's team, pleaded guilty to sexual battery for groping a woman at a bar in 2010, and then spent a year in junior-college exile and transferred to LSU.

Defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor was accused of assaulting his girlfriend at Georgia, spent last season at a junior college before transferring to Alabama, where he was dismissed from the team after being arrested on a domestic violence charge involving another woman (who later recanted her allegations).

Quarterback Everett Golson graduated from Notre Dame this spring.

He might not be allowed to transfer to an SEC school.

Say what? A guy who actually graduated from Notre Dame can't attend an SEC school, but guys who were accused of crimes such as theft and domestic violence can?

Golson, who announced last week that he was leaving the Fighting Irish, is apparently interested in transferring to Florida State or a handful of SEC schools (Alabama, Georgia and Florida). He will be eligible to play for his new team this coming season.

Golson, who apparently wants to play his final college season closer to his hometown of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, visited Florida State on Monday, Florida on Tuesday and was reportedly scheduled to stop by Georgia on Wednesday.

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher confirmed the Seminoles' interest in Golson to reporters at the ACC's spring meetings in Amelia Island, Florida.

"We're negotiating, we're talking right now," Fisher said. "We're going through things. Staying in contact with him."

New Florida coach Jim McElwain also made it clear the Gators are interested in Golson joining their team. During Wednesday's SEC spring football teleconference, McElwain said: "We're always looking to help the organization fill holes where needed. Him mentioning us is exciting."

Georgia coach Mark Richt wouldn't say much about the Bulldogs' interest in Golson, other than the fact he'd be more comfortable with four scholarship quarterbacks on his roster than the current three.

Sure, Golson might be a turnover machine (32 in 26 career games), but he might be a better short-term option than the inexperienced candidates currently competing for jobs at Alabama, Florida, Florida State and Georgia.

But McElwain and other SEC coaches might be wasting their time in recruiting Golson. SEC bylaw requires that a graduate transfer wishing to enroll at one of its school meet seven requirements, including that the "student-athlete has not been subject to official university or athletics department disciplinary action at any time during enrollment at any previous collegiate institution [excluding limited discipline by a sports team]."

Here's where it gets tricky for Golson: After leading Notre Dame to the BCS National Championship Game at the end of the 2012 season (the Fighting Irish lost to Alabama 42-14), he was suspended from the university for fall semester 2013 for academic dishonesty.

If Golson decides he wants to play for an SEC school, he would have to obtain a waiver from SEC commissioner Michael Slive. The SEC bylaw also stipulates that a graduate transfer has at least two years of eligibility remaining. Golson has only one.

The SEC bylaw was put in place after former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli transferred to Ole Miss in 2010. Masoli, who led the Ducks to the 2009 Rose Bowl, was kicked off the team the next summer following two run-ins with police. He pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary and also was cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession.

As a result, SEC officials changed its graduate transfer rule to prevent players from running away from discipline.

Here's the problem with the rule: It only applies to graduate transfers and not other players who were previously kicked off SEC teams for off-field problems. Players such as Marshall, Mettenberger, Newton, Taylor and others were welcomed back to the league with open arms after spending time at junior colleges.

Golson paid the price for his transgression, which was poor judgment but not exactly a crime. He sat out the 2013 season, returned to Notre Dame last season and did well enough in his studies to earn a bachelor's degree from one of the country's most respected universities.

In the past, Slive has been unwilling to grant waivers to players who have faced disciplinary issues at their former schools. Last July, Slive denied Florida Gulf Coast graduate Eric McKnight's waiver request to join Tennessee's basketball team. McKnight, who started his career at Iowa State, was suspended twice and then dismissed from Florida Gulf Coast's team.

Last year, Slive did allow former Virginia tight end Jake McGee to transfer to Florida, even though he had only one year of eligibility of remaining after graduating from UVA. McGee was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after missing the 2014 season with a knee injury.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Wednesday that the Gamecocks aren't going to be involved in the Golson sweepstakes. But Spurrier made it clear he doesn't agree with the SEC rule regarding graduate transfers.

"I'm sure as coaches we wish we had the same advantages as everybody else," Spurrier said. "I wish we all had the same rules, but that's just my opinion."

My opinion: A guy who graduated from Notre Dame seems a lot more worthy of a second chance than some of the players the SEC has recently allowed to return to the league.

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