An impending SEC decision could rule in Florida’s favor for a second year in a row.
Last year, a change to the SEC’s rule on graduate transfers enabled the Gators to add ex-Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire. Another change on the horizon could allow Ole Miss transfer Van Jefferson to play immediately this season for UF.
Zaire ended up being a bust, but the Gators are hoping Jefferson, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound wide receiver, has a big role in their offense — and does so in 2018.
How could Van Jefferson become eligible next season at Florida?
A proposal (co-sponsored by Florida and Texas A&M) that would allow athletes to transfer within the SEC if their original school is hit with a postseason ban would need to pass. Jefferson was a redshirt sophomore at Ole Miss last season. Normally under NCAA rules, a transfer who has not already graduated would need to sit out one season before being eligible at his new school.
But because of the postseason ban, among other sanctions, levied against Ole Miss by the NCAA, Jefferson has a chance to become immediately eligible.
The Southeastern Conference will vote on a proposal at its spring meetings next week that would lift all conference restrictions on athletes who want to transfer from one league member to another if their original school receives a postseason ban, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
The new rule essentially would mean that any school that receives a postseason ban could more easily lose players to SEC rivals “provided other NCAA and SEC eligibility requirements are met,” according to the literature distributed to SEC schools.
What would Van Jefferson bring to Florida?
Florida, entering its first season under ex-Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, could use a consistent threat at receiver like Jefferson, especially with the team searching for a starting quarterback. As a redshirt sophomore in 2017, Jefferson caught 42 passes for 456 yards and a touchdown. His numbers were a bit better during his redshirt freshman year: 49 catches for 543 yards and three scores.
As detailed by Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde, Ole Miss initially put limits on the schools — other SEC schools and the non-conference opponents on Ole Miss’ 2018 and 2019 schedules — that could contact Jefferson. However, the Ole Miss athletic department decided to reverse course and remove the transfer restrictions. That change allowed Jefferson to choose Florida as his new school.
If the vote passes and Jefferson becomes eligible, he would be the most proven commodity at the position, though guys like Tyrie Cleveland, Kadarius Toney and Josh Hammond have all shown flashes for the Gators, Cleveland especially.
Who else transferred from Ole Miss?
Jefferson was probably the second in the pecking order of the Ole Miss transfers.
The most notable was quarterback Shea Patterson, who landed at Michigan and is expected to be the team’s starting quarterback in 2018. Other players to transfer from Ole Miss include DB Deontay Anderson (Houston), wideout Tre Nixon (UCF), linebacker Breon Dixon (Nebraska) linebacker Jarrion Street (UAB) and lineman Jack DeFoor (Georgia Tech).
They left after the school was penalized for impermissible benefits. Some, including Patterson, claimed that Hugh Freeze, the Rebels’ former head coach, misled them about the impending NCAA sanctions.
All of the players above filed NCAA waivers for immediate eligibility; those waivers were granted. Jefferson’s situation, because he transferred within the SEC, is different.
This proposal accounts for why Florida coach Dan Mullen told reporters recently that the school has yet to apply for Jefferson’s immediate eligibility waiver, as other non-SEC schools that took Ole Miss transfers have done. Because Jefferson transferred within the league, the SEC commissioner would need to grant a waiver under the current setup.
There is a financial aspect of this proposal
The proposal would also call for “all postseason revenue” to be withheld from schools with postseason bans, as emphasized by the recent Commission on College Basketball. That’s a lot of money, often millions of dollars.
The proposal imposes a significant financial penalty on schools that have been banned from the postseason in football or basketball by withholding all postseason revenue from the NCAA, SEC or bowl games that could be worth millions of dollars per year. The postseason revenue component is based in part on recommendations from the Condoleezza Rice-led Commission on College Basketball, which calls for increased postseason bans and financial penalties for schools that break the rules.
“Institutions that choose to operate outside the rules should not benefit financially from doing so,” the proposal states.
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