Now it gets interesting. Alabama Coach Nick Saban has moved the Maurice Smith controversy into the court of Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey.
Following Alabama’s Wednesday practice, Saban – without being asked, since he had said he wasn’t going to say anything more about it – said, "We have done everything that we can do institutionally to allow the conference to make the decision about whatever they decide is in the best interest of the conference and the SEC rules relative to Maurice Smith. So that is past us now. It is beyond us. We don't really need to talk about that anymore and I don't have any other comments to make about it. We're trying to focus on the guys we have here and what we need to do to help those guys have a chance to be successful."
What that means is that Alabama has granted a release for Smith to transfer to an SEC school, with full knowledge that the former Crimson Tide defensive back Smith intends to transfer to Georgia as a graduate transfer. Saban did not want Smith to transfer, had renewed his scholarship in the summer (as required by NCAA rule), and had urged him to stay at Bama. Smith, who has been primarily a special teams player in his first three seasons, was expected to be Alabama’s starting Star (nickel back) this season.
Now it will be up to Sankey to decide if the SEC wants to uphold the rule that Saban had been citing, that a player cannot transfer from one conference institution to another without having to sit out a transfer season.
It is reasonable to believe that Alabama and the SEC had some conversation about the outcome before Alabama released Smith. Saban has taken a media beating for having held to his position as upholding the SEC rule.
Alabama’s coach did get one question regarding how the loss of Smith affects the look of the secondary and said, "I think what we're focused on is the guys we have in the secondary right now. We're out there working with them every day and we're going to try to put the best parts together that we can. And we've got some young guys that I think can be really good players but it's a work in progress to sort of get those guys to know and understand not only what we do, but all the adjustments we have to make for what other teams do when we play them. It's going to be important that some of these young guys provide us with the depth that we need and there's a lot of opportunity for these guys to play and I think they're working hard and focused on it and making improvement every day. But it's too early to tell how it's going to all fall in place for us. We have lots of practices left before that first game and hopefully some of these guys will sort of be able to get enough knowledge and experience in this practice time that they're confident enough to go out and contribute in a role for us to help us win."
Otherwise, the only news from Saban’s press briefing concerned an apparent injury to freshman tailback Joshua Jacobs. Saban said, "He has a little back contusion but I think he'll be just fine in a day or two. He's day-to-day. He actually practiced one day with it and we decided not to practice him for a day. We're just trying to get some of the swelling out. I think he'll be fine."
Regarding the team, Saban said, "I see our players making a little bit of progress and some improvement each and every day. We had a little rain today so we had to go inside, which made the conditions for them a little bit easier, I think. It's easier for them to focus. But I think the No. 1 thing that I'm trying to get the players to understand is, mature competitors can go out there no matter what the circumstance, what the situation, playing early, playing late, crowd's against you, crowd's for you, hot, cold, whatever it is, and you can focus and do your job from an effort standpoint, from a mental toughness standpoint, from a responsibility to execute, knowing what to do and how to do it, and be able to focus on that in that particular time and the best way to do that is to do it every day in practice regardless of what the circumstances are in practice.
"The passion and perseverance that it takes for every guy to challenge himself to be able to do that, especially young players… We've played a lot of young players around here in the past and they've done a fantastic job for us. But that's the thing that they have to show that they can do. Have the maturity as a competitor to be able to stay focused in critical times so they can do their job consistently for the team. That's what we're trying to evaluate. Because this fall camp is all about how many guys can we put in a position that can help us play winning football that we're going to invest our time in to coach? And every day in practice, especially when the scrimmages come, we're making those kinds of evaluations on all of the personnel because when camp is over and we start playing these games, those are the guys that we're going to have to invest our time. So there are some young guys out there that have shown that at times but for us to have the kind of depth on our team that we need to have, we're going to need some of these guys to step up for us in certain places, certain positions on the field. That's what we're trying to get evaluated right now.
Saban also expressed condolences on the announcement of the death of ESPN sportscaster John Saunders. He said, "We're very, very sorry to hear of the passing of John Saunders and I just want his family to know our thoughts and our prayers are with his family and friends. He was a first-class gentleman and a first-class journalist and someone that we always really enjoyed working with. Very, very sorry to hear about his passing.”