VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. -- Asked if he supports a new SEC rule banning conference schools from taking transfers who were dismissed from their previous program for “serious misconduct,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said he wasn’t in favor of it, but “is supportive of the league” and “understands what they’re trying to do.”
During last week’s spring meetings, the SEC passed a rule stating that its 14 members are no longer allowed to accept transfers dismissed from their previous programs for “serious misconduct.” The conference defines “serious misconduct” as “sexual assault, domestic violence or other forms of sexual violence.”
The rule was proposed by Georgia, which dismissed defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor in July 2014 following an arrest for a domestic violence charge. Taylor signed with Alabama in January only to be dismissed in March following another arrest on a domestic violence charge. The accuser in Alabama later recanted her story.
Speaking with reporters before his annual Nick’s Kids golf tournament on Thursday, Saban said he wanted the rule to have more clarity “to clearly define exactly why or what” when discussing each player’s offense.
As it stands, potential transfers with pending charges would not be allowed in the conference. Saban said the words “convicted and felony should be involved in the rule.”
The rule doesn’t address what happens if a player is dismissed from a team following an arrest but is later found innocent or charges are dropped. The rule focuses on players who faced official university or athletics department disciplinary action. There is a waiver process for special circumstances.
To further drive his point, Saban used an example of two recent high-profile Auburn quarterbacks.
“Cam Newton being in the SEC and Nick Marshall being in the SEC benefited the SEC,” Saban said. “And it benefited those players. If those players were not allowed to play in the SEC, they’d be playing somewhere else.”
However, based on the new rule, neither of those player’s transgressions would have prevented them from returning to the SEC.
Newton was dismissed from Florida following an arrest for a stolen laptop. Marshall was dismissed from Georgia following a theft from a teammate. Both wound up in junior college before eventually landing at Auburn.
Going back to his point on players with “serious misconduct” being able to play somewhere else if the SEC denies them, Saban said he would prefer for all of the schools within the Power 5 conferences to operate under the same rules.
The SEC is the first league to pass a rule of this nature. Citing the NFL having a level playing field, Saban said parity should be the objective for everyone in the Power 5 conferences.
“When we pass rules that other people (teams) we have to compete against (don’t pass) ... If that really is what’s best for the young people we’re dealing with, the student-athletes that we’re dealing with, then it should be best for everyone or otherwise we shouldn’t do it,” Saban said. “I’m hopeful that some kind of way we’ll be able to get the Big 5 together under the NCAA’s supervision to try to create rules that we all see in the best interest of student-athletes.”
While acknowledging that each student-athlete has a “responsibility and obligation to do the right things,” Saban believes the legal process should be allowed to play out.
“What I see happening a lot is people don’t get convicted of things, they’re condemned as soon as they get arrested,” Saban said. “I’m not sure that’s fair because I don’t think that’s what our country was really built on.”
Contact Anniston Star Sports Writer Marq Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @Marq_Burnett.