The SEC Spring Meetings begin today in Destin, Florida. That means the most powerful conference in the land will descend upon the white sand beaches and postcard sunsets of Florida’s panhandle to talk big business.
The Florida Gators, in particular, have a lot of business to handle this year. Last year the talk was all about satellite camps, were they good, should the SEC keep them, how can they police them? Satellite camps won’t be on the docket this year but the Gators will be looking for a vote to change a rule that could very well help them this coming fall.
Will the SEC Change its graduate transfer policy?
Currently the SEC limits its schools from accepting new graduate transfers if previous graduate transfers did not make sufficient academic progress towards their graduate degree. The Gators had two graduate transfers, OL Mason Halter and LB Anthony Harrell, become academically ineligible for the 2016 Citrus Bowl. That put Florida into a position where they are now unable to accept graduate transfers for a period of three seasons.
This hurts Florida, obviously, but is made even more of a pressing issue considering Notre Dame quarterback transfer Malik Zaire is considering Florida and, as a graduate transfer, would be eligible to play in 2017.
The league made this rule in an effort to set an example for other conferences. If a student-athletes wants to play out their final season at a new institution upon graduating, great, but the SEC wanted to ensure that they were not promoting some sort of “free agency” and that the athletes were actually intending on living up to thr first part of the name, student-athlete. Other conferences have not followed suit, leaving the SEC at a competitive disadvantage, which is why multiple institutions have discussed changing the rule.
The spring meetings in Destin are where rule changes and policy changes are introduced, discussed and voted on. With every President in attendance, as well as every football coach as well as the student led “leadership council” a vote on the graduate transfer policy is certain to happen this week.
Last week SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey told the Associated Press that this will be the first extensive conservation league officials have had about graduate transfers in a while.
”This will be the first meaningful conversation that we’ve had since the proliferation of graduate transfers has happened nationally,” Sankey told the AP. ”I expect our membership to have a pretty meaningful conversation about the right perspective on graduate transfers entering the SEC from outside and then the topic of inter-conference transfers.”
”A football player that enrolls as a graduate student and never goes to class, that’s not healthy. We want to tend more toward our Canyon Barry’s.”
Zaire, a lefty, was granted a release from his scholarship at Notre Dame in November. He started just three games in his career at Notre Dame but would certainly be in the mix to start at Florida. The Gators have two redshirt freshmen and Luke Del Rio, who is still rehabbing after two offseason shoulder injuries, at the position.
Zaire threw for 816 yards and six touchdowns, adding 324 yards on the ground and two more scores for the Irish during his career. Zaire started the 2014 Music City bowl in place of Everett Golson and went into the 2015 as the starting quarterback. His season ended in week two with a broken ankle. DeShone Kizer stepped into the starting role for the rest of the season and the two battled it out to see who would start in 2016. Both quarterbacks played in the season opener at Texas but that experiment lasted just one week and Kizer started the rest of the way for the Irish.
The vote will happen this week and it is expected to pass. Yes, a change in the rule this season or an exemption for Florida looks convenient but other schools know they could be in a similar situation next season or in coming seasons.
Reports last week out of South Bend stated that Zaire had already made a decision that he wants to attend Florida but is waiting for the dominos to fall that would change the current rule and open up a path for him to come to Gainesville. It’s not a far-fetched idea. Zaire has pushed back announcements twice, deciding to hold off an official decision on where he would transfer.
For his part, Jim McElwain (who cannot speak about graduate transfers until they are enrolled at the University of Florida) was asked about taking on a grad-transfer, specifically if he felt that accepting a graduate transfer would hinder the progression of younger players that were the future of the team.
“I think the big thing is that whatever position it is, you’re always trying to get better,” McElwain said before his speaking tour stop in Orlando. “If there is an opportunity to get better, you know, that’s it. You’ve heard me talk about it. Great teams have competition at every position. You can never be comfortable. We’ve got to get to that point, we’re not there yet, and yet we’ve got to get to that point at every position.”
The Gators have had bad luck and woeful performance from the quarterback position since 2010. Zaire may not be a savior, but he absolutely brings more talent to a quarterback room that will be under the microscope all season long in Gainesville.