Nick Saban isn’t the biggest fan of the NCAA’s new transfer rule. However, he has a plan for it.
Thursday, the NCAA Division I Council officially passed a one-time transfer exception, providing athletes in all sports the opportunity to transfer one time without being forced to sit out a year. The rule had previously been in place for all sports except football, men’s and women’s basketball and men’s ice hockey. The new policy will become universal across all sports when the Division I Board of Directors meets on April 28.
During his post-practice Zoom call with reporters Thursday, Saban was asked about the new policy and whether it will affect how he goes about building future teams. While the head coach has previously voiced his displeasure over the rule, he doesn’t believe it will hurt how his program operates moving forward.
“We have thought about a strategy that we’re going to use,” Saban said. “You’ve heard me speak about this before, but now that it is a rule, we’re going to adapt to it and make it an advantage for us.
“I think what’s going to happen as you see how often in a lot of leagues, you know the good players go to a good team and the bad players leave good teams because they’re not playing. So is that going to make the rich get richer? I don’t know. You can decide that.”
In the past, Saban hasn’t typically relied on transfers to strengthen his roster. The Crimson Tide brought in North Carolina graduate transfer Carl Tucker last offseason and added Landon Dickerson as a graduate transfer from Florida State in 2019. The last underclassman to transfer to Alabama was defensive back Phelon Jones, who joined the program from LSU in 2009.
Alabama is currently rumored to be in the lead to land Tennessee linebacker Henry To’o To’o, who entered the NCAA transfer portal in January. However, to do so, the Tide would also need the SEC to change its intra-conference transfer rules which currently require players to sit out a season upon transferring within the conference.
“We will only look for transfers that can really, that are going to help our team be better,” Saban said Thursday. “So, that means we have to have a need for them. They have to be better than a guy is that we have in the program right now at their position. And so we’ll be selective and how we choose guys, we’re still going to recruit quality players that we can develop in the program.”
As for a change in recruiting, Saban doesn’t think he’ll be saving too many spots for potential transfers over incoming freshmen. Instead, the head coach said he plans on continuing to develop his players in the way that has made Alabama one of the most desirable programs in the nation.
In short, Saban might not be pleased with Thursday’s news. However, he’s far from worried.
“I mean we do a great job here of helping players develop be more successful in life,” Saban said. “Lots of player development, you know, most guys that have left here, call back 100 times wanting to come back. So I don’t think — because we do such a good job academically with our guys career development program, we’ve done a really good job and have a good track record of graduating players, developing guys play at the next level. So, I don’t think our good players are going to be leaving. But I think we’ll be able to get some good players to join us, when we have room to do that.”