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SEC’s transfer rules taking center stage during spring meetings

Expect a change soon.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The SEC’s annual spring meetings are off and running in Destin, Florida, as you probably know by now. The main topic of debate this year are the SEC’s transfer rules, which have been thrust into the spotlight by the Brandon Kennedy situation.

Some backstory here — Kennedy has already graduated from Alabama and opted to transfer after spring practice. The writing was on the wall that Kennedy was set for second team duties once again, so you can’t fault a kid with two years of eligibility left to try and maximize what he’s got left.

There’s just one problem. Kennedy’s main two schools of interest are Auburn and Tennessee. SEC rules say that all transfers must sit out a year when moving within the conference. However, Alabama has blocked Kennedy from contacting any SEC school or future opponent. That includes The Citadel.

Dennis Dodd from CBS Sports dove into Nick Saban’s comments on the issue here. To a certain extent, I get where Saban is coming from. It’s hard to let a player walk to a rival with all the knowledge of the scheme and playbook. You also don’t want to create so-called college football free agency, either.

At the same time, are we okay with coaches dictating where players who have achieved academically can go to finish their playing careers? It’s a tough spot and an argument that I can see both sides of.

Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt has taken the stance that the coaches shouldn’t be able to restrict players after they graduate. He held firm in that stance through the Darrin Kirkland Jr. situation this weekend.

“What happened with Darrin, he thought about looking into it, and we offered him any support we could, and he decided to stay,” Pruitt explained. “I think if somebody graduates, to me they have fulfilled their obligation. That’s my view. Who am I to stand in the way?” (via Mike Griffith, SEC Country)

In the end, Kirkland decided to stay at Tennessee after Pruitt spoke with he and his parents over the weekend.

Several coaches share Pruitt’s thoughts on the rule, including Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher and Georgia’s Kirby Smart. “A guy’s fulfilled his time and he’s graduated from school and he’s supposedly a man, he ought to be able to make those decisions,” Fisher said.

Smart noted that Alabama and Nick Saban have lost plenty of assistant coaches who were immersed in the ‘Bama program. It doesn’t seem to have slowed them down too much at all.

If you can overcome losing a coordinator to another SEC school, surely you can overcome losing your backup center to a conference foe, right? If the league wants to keep the sit-out-a-year stipulation for in-conference transfers, that’s fine. But let a guy at least have the right to go where he wants.

What you don’t want is a key starter from a smaller SEC school graduating and transferring to a bigger SEC school to play his final year, just because he can. That’s where things can get muddy.

In-conference movement was going to become an issue at some point. It has twice now with Kennedy and Maurice Smith. The conversation has already begun, now it’s up to the league to come up with a solution.