Transfer talk is all the rage these days. The latest ball of off-season catnip popped up after new Georgia head coach Kirby Smart affirmed a ban on transfers to former Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt in his new port of call at Miami.
“One of the reasons that I put Miami on there was that I wanted to set a precedent for the future that kids were not going to be able to go to Miami, right away,” Smart said earlier this week. “It’s very important that we understand that, and it’s pretty much standard operating procedure when a coach leaves one place that a kid can’t go there with the coach. It’s important to me that people understand that.”
Smart’s opinion is a stark departure from that of his predecessor (Richt did not restrict transfers, reasoning, simply, “life’s too short”) and Houston head coach Tom Herman.
In an appearance on the Paul Finebaum Show on Thursday, Herman issued an opinion common amongst fans and media but radical in coaching circles — that players who experience a coaching change should be let out of their scholarships and transfer without restriction, should they so choose.
“People forget I spent six years coaching I-AA football, or FCS football. We made a living on four-year transfers that were not happy in their current situation and wanted a new lease on their football career. I’m into student-athlete welfare,” Herman said. “I think that, as much as we want the exterior to look like a young man is going to pick a school based on the school and the school alone and it have nothing to do with the people, I think that’s living with our head in the sand a little bit. I think that the current transfer standards are okay where they’re at. If you’re asking my opinion how could they be changed or benefit the student-athlete if there is a coaching change a student-athlete should be able to leave on his own accord and be eligible immediately. If the student-athlete is just plain and simple unhappy and wants to go somewhere else then I think a one-year cooling off period to make sure you understand what you’re doing and what you’re doing is going to cost you a year of eligibility is fair but if a coaching change does happen and the people in that young man’s life do change I think he should have every right to go wherever he wants.”
Finebaum asked if his opinion receives pushback from athletics directors and conference commissioners.
“I don’t know that it’s administrators as much as it is our governing body, the NCAA and the threat to the student-athlete model and the amateurism model, at least they perceive that that would threaten,” he said. “To me, that isn’t a threat, that’s in the best interest of the student-athlete, which is what the NCAA’s mission, us as coaches, our mission should always be, and that’s the best interest of our student-athletes.”
To be clear, Smart is not the only coach to think the way he does. But his is the ball of catnip in play at the moment.
Elsewhere in the interview…
Herman on handling the spotlight as this year’s chosen bracket buster: “We definitely embrace the expectations, we don’t run away from them. We set the bar very high. I think a lot of the credit goes to the strength of our conference. Our goal is not to win the national championship, it’s to win our conference’s championship. We understand that our conference has kind of positioned itself such that there’s the Power 5 and then there’s us and then there’s a Group of 4, if you will. The winner of our conference is going to play in a New Year’s Day bowl game barring some miracle season from some other team. To be mentioned in that category is great but winning our conference sets you up for some pretty strong recognition. Looking that far ahead is a bit foolish. We’re trying to figure out how to replace some of our key seniors that we lost and get better each day, find an identity to this 2016 team.”
On his name being mentioned for other jobs: “Anytime your name is mentioned for other jobs is a compliment to the people in the program you’ve built in the place that you’re at. Certainly wouldn’t be there without the support of our coaching staff. I think I’ve got… I don’t think, I know I’ve got the best assistant coaching staff in the entire country when you talk about our nine assistants, our head strength coach and our assistant strength coach. It’s the best, most aligned, one track minded staff and chemistry-laden staff that exists in college football. It’s a compliment to them, a compliment to the people here at Houston. I’m certainly glad and happy where things worked out to where we got to stay here in Houston.”
On how he handles his name being tossed around for other jobs: “I would address it the same way I did last year, the only way I know how to address it, and that’s the truth. To tell everyone and anyone that asks, the players, recruits, the media, that asks what the truth is. The truth is usually A) I’m not going to comment on any other jobs because I’ve got a great one and we love the place that we’re at, we love the city of Houston, we love the University of Houston, but B) I tell our team all the time we’re a family. You read or hear something and you want to know if it’s true or not, come ask me. I’ll tell you the truth. I don’t shy away from that one bit. The neat thing about coaching today’s generation, it’s a bit of a plus and minus, give and take if you will, they are a generation that has grown up on social media and the Internet, but they are very astute as to know that not everything you read on the Internet or Twitter or Facebook is the truth. That helped last year and I know it’ll help this year. Our kids didn’t blink an eye when all of these quote-unquote reports decided to surface when someone from behind a smart phone types whatever he wants into a 140-character Twitter feed and that becomes news all of a sudden.”
On the report that he was planning to leave for South Carolina until the Gamecocks lost to The Citadel in November: “That’s absolutely not true. I wish the reporter would have asked me for my comment on that. I would have given him the truth just like I’m giving it to you, Paul…. The truth is that report was false.”
On what he learned coaching under Urban Meyer: “It was tremendous. I learned so much from my three years there. I tell people all the time I went to head coaching school for three years. He’s as good as they get in the country. It has nothing to do with X’s and O’s, it’s about how he manages his staff and aligning all of the people that touch the players there at Ohio State and making sure the messages that are delivered are exactly the same and that there’s no separation of context or messaging, and really motivating and driving his players to be the best that they can both mentally and physically. I couldn’t be more blessed to have spent three years with him and then to come out the other side with whatever we were in three years, 38-3 and a national championship, it was a pretty fun run for those three years. ”