Nick Saban doesn’t have an issue with the transfer portal. He knows it provides a more direct line of communication for players who are looking to pursue other opportunities.
But transfer waivers are a different story.
At SEC Media Days on Wednesday, Saban, entering his 13th season leading Alabama, made it clear he isn’t on board with the frequency with which immediate eligibility waivers have been given out in recent months.
“The issue with the transfer portal is we've gotten very liberal in giving people waivers, so, when we do that, it becomes free agency, which I don't think is good for college football. I don't think it's good for fans,” Saban said.
Historically, players who transfer from one school to another have been required to sit out one season before being eligible to play at their new school. But things have changed. Graduate transfers — where a transfer is granted immediate eligibility after graduating from his or her original school — are one thing, but the recent trend of granting waivers for immediate eligibility has been a change.
Saban isn’t a fan.
“If we're going to have a transfer portal that's good for the players, then we ought to have a rule that says, regardless of what happens when you transfer, you have to sit out a year. That's how it's been for years and years and years,” Saban said. “At one point in time there was 65 waivers that were given. So everybody's expectation is I can transfer and get a waiver. And I don't think that's a good thing.”
For Saban, it’s an issue of players upholding their end of the commitment they made when they signed with a program.
“We make commitments to players for four years. They make commitments to us to be in our program. It may not work out for everybody and they may have a better opportunity someplace else, but if they have to sit out for a year, it would be a consequence for them in terms of their commitment,” Saban said.
NCAA made changes to waiver process last month
Last month, the NCAA formalized some adjustments to the transfer waiver process. One of the biggest issues with the waiver process has been consistency. Players like Justin Fields and Tate Martell were granted immediate eligibility based on the vague “mitigating circumstances” wording that was added to the NCAA rulebook in April 2018, while a player like Illinois tight end Luke Ford, who transferred from Georgia to be closer to his sick grandfather, had his waiver denied.
You can read more about the adjustments to the waiver process here. Based on those changes, some of Saban’s concerns should be eased.
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