Alabama's handling of Maurice Smith serves as reminder of Georgia's own change
The recent events involving Maurice Smith, an Alabama defensive back who wants to transfer and play at Georgia, have created an interesting situation for Bulldogs fans.
Smith is set to graduate from Alabama later this month, meaning he would be available to play immediately at another school, provided he receives a release from the Crimson Tide. Therein lies the problem.
Smith’s mother, Samyra, claims Alabama coach Nick Saban is blocking her son’s potential move to join his former defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart, at Georgia.
It’s an ongoing battle that likely isn’t very pleasing to the Crimson Tide’s PR department. Reports surfaced Wednesday that the program threw Smith’s personal belongings in the trash after he approached Saban about his plans to transfer.
While public sympathy appears to be firmly in the senior defensive back’s corner, it does provide a unique dilemma for Georgia fans.
Alabama is being made to be the villain of this story. The reigning national champions are blocking a player’s request to transfer in an attempt to gain more playing time at another program. Add to the mix the assertion from Smith’s mother that the Crimson Tide are doing this to bide time and force his hand into staying and that the program allowed Chris Black to transfer to Missouri earlier this year, and it isn’t a good look.
But Saban doesn’t care about any of that. Fresh off of his fourth national championship, Saban is interested in protecting the powerhouse he has built at Alabama. And, like it or not, Georgia fans can’t take up arms against the Crimson Tide because they hired Smart in an effort to become more like Alabama.
During Mark Richt’s tenure at Georgia, there were no transfer restrictions. As Richt put it, “life’s too short” to not allow someone the freedom to do what they felt was best for them. It was, and is, a policy most believe should be adopted throughout college football.
While Richt ran things in Athens, Georgia fans were able to take the moral high ground and justly criticize situations like Smith’s. That all changed, however, when Smart would not allow former UGA running back A.J. Turman to transfer to Miami or Florida, earlier this year.
Many fans respected and lauded the way Richt exemplified “The Georgia Way” during his time with the program. It was arguably his greatest defense against the growing belief that good was no longer good enough at Georgia. Eventually, the school, and a portion of the fan base, decided that Richt’s morality might be keeping them from competing with the likes of Alabama.
Now that Smart is in charge, there is a pervasive hope among the Georgia faithful that the Bulldogs will soon resemble the Crimson Tide between the hedges. Whether they like it or not, the decision to hire Smart in an attempt to become more like Alabama on the field means a greater likeness off the field as well.
For some, this is an exchange happily made. After all, winning cures everything, and there have been 100 official wins, including four SEC and national titles, for Alabama in the nine years that Saban has roamed the sidelines. For others, the recent development with Smith is another reminder of the cost associated with winning. Smart’s defense for his new policies is essentially this: Everyone else is doing it, and this is what it takes to be competitive.
He’s not wrong, and some of the new changes will benefit the Bulldogs in the future. But, for now, Georgia fans are unable to take a staunch opposition to transfer restrictions and join the fight against Saban and Alabama.
In this instance, it’s become clear that “The Georgia Way” doesn’t carry the same weight it used to.
William McFadden covers The University of Georgia for Saturday Down South. For the latest news on what’s happening between the hedges, follow him on Twitter @willmcfadden.