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Grad Student Exemption One Change The SEC Botched

The SEC is getting plenty of press — and heat — over the 25-man soft cap that it imposed on its football signing classes last week.  Some groups say the league went too far and has placed itself at a disadvantage.  Other groups complain that the SEC didn’t go far enough.

But most everyone agrees that the SEC’s presidents goofed when it came to one particular piece of its new policy — the grad student exemption.

Mike Slive and the league’s presidents said that the the loophole allowing graduates at one school to transfer into the SEC with one year of eligibility as a grad student was being exploited for athletic, not academic purposes.  And to be honest, that’s correct in most cases.

However, there are still two flaws in the SEC’s decision.  First, the rule was designed to reward students who do exactly what the league’s presidents should want them to do — get their diplomas.  Why disincentivize in that area?

Second, the SEC’s ruling to ban those who want to join the league for only a year — and only for athletic purposes — said nothing regarding the league’s one-and-done basketball stars.  Obviously, it’s harder to legislate against what someone is going to do in the future, but if you’re going to pick one type of one-and-doner to support, wouldn’t the best option be the guy who has already gotten his college degree as opposed to the kid who’s simply killing time until he can enter the NBA draft?

Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News puts it this way:

“One-and-done players without degrees on the front end?  No problem.  One-and-done players with diplomas on the back end?  No way.”

In reality, the league’s presidents were guilty of overreacting to the negative publicity given to the league over last year’s Jeremiah Masoli-to-Mississippi story.  Much of what the SEC’s presidents did in Destin was about PR and much of it was good, but Masoli is hardly the poster boy for the grad student exemption.  It’s rare that a school would go after a grad student who has been booted off his last team for illegal activities.  Masoli was the exception, not the rule.

In most cases the players seeking the grad student exemption are good people and — obviously — pretty decent students.

The SEC did some good things last week in Destin.  But its presidents were way off base on this one.




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