The Florida Gators received good news on Friday when the SEC President’s voted to change the league’s policy on graduate transfers.
The league met this week in Destin to discuss many topics during its annual spring meetings, with head football coaches meeting with Commissioner Greg Sankey on Tuesday and the Presidents of the Universities meeting with him Friday.
Previously the league penalized schools that accept graduate transfers and then had those graduate students fail to meet academic requirements during their time on campus. The previous rule was a three-year ban on accepting graduate transfers, the league has decided to reduce that to just one year.
Florida violated this in 2016 when two graduate transfers, Mason Halter and Anthony Harrell, became academically ineligible for Florida’s bowl game. The rule that was in place restricted Florida from accepting a graduate transfer for three years. No other Power Five Conference had such a restriction.
“If we have rules in the Southeastern Conference that are different than the other conferences that we’re playing against and competing against … I don’t know what we’re trying to prove there,” McElwain told reporters in Destin, Florida on Tuesday.
McElwain’s mentor, Alabama head coach Nick Saban, echoed that sentiment.
“I don’t think we should penalize ourselves as a league and allow people to transfer other places, but they can’t transfer to our league. So if there’s some balance we can come up with on that, that’s what I would be for,” he said.
Florida had a strong rooting interest in the softening of the rule. The Gators have uncertainty at their quarterback position with two untested redshirt freshmen (Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask) and returning starter Luke Del Rio, who is currently rehabbing after shoulder surgeries on both of his shoulders. Florida has long been rumored a landing spot for Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire, who received a release from his scholarship last November and graduated from Notre Dame last semester. The change in policy on Friday now opens a door for Zaire to transfer to Florida and immediately step into a competition to start at quarterback. The left-handed passer has pushed off his commitment multiple times. Zaire told Tom VanHaaren that he would like to make a final decision “as soon as possible.”
With the news Friday, Zaire has another option, possibly his best option to come in start and lead Florida back to the SEC Championship, something he told ESPN he’s looking to do, wherever he lands.
“I’m going in to win a championship,” Zaire told ESPN. “That’s the whole goal.”