SEC changes graduate transfer rule, paving way for Malik Zaire to Florida (Update)

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Update: Sunday, June 4 – 9:50 a.m. ET

On Saturday night, Notre Dame graduate transfer quarterback Malik Zaire told Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman that he will indeed transfer to Florida. He plans to arrive in Gainesville on Wednesday, he said. He will be immediately eligible to suit up for the Gators after the SEC adjusted its graduate transfer rule on Friday.

Original story: Friday, June 2 – 1:50 p.m. ET

The SEC is making a change to its graduate transfer rule.

After discussions at the league’s meetings throughout the week, Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin told reporters Friday that, moving forward, the SEC’s graduate transfer will align more closely with the other Power Five conferences.

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The graduate transfer rule allows players who graduate from one school to transfer to another and have immediate eligibility — provided the player seeks a graduate degree not offered at his previous school. The SEC has been open to graduate transfers in the past, but attached academic requirements. Previously, if an SEC school’s graduate transfers did not meet certain Academic Progress Rate (APR) points, the school would be forbidden from accepting grad transfers for three years.

Now, Stricklin said that term has dropped from three to one.

“It puts us in line with what everybody else in the country is doing, and I think that makes a lot of sense,” Stricklin said.

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The change is good news for Florida. Because two graduate players underperformed academically in 2015, UF was in the midst of that three-year penalty and could not add Notre Dame quarterback transfer Malik Zaire.

Now, Zaire, who reportedly whittled his choices down to Florida and Texas but was waiting for the SEC’s ruling, can join the Gators if he chooses. If he does choose Florida, Zaire, despite starting only three games at Notre Dame, but would enter the mix to start. He would join a quarterback that includes four freshmen (two redshirt freshmen and two true freshmen) and redshirt junior Luke Del Rio, who has had trouble staying healthy. One of the redshirt freshmen, Feleipe Franks, and Del Rio would be Zaire’s main competition.

SEC coaches and officials also discussed a potential ban of intraconference graduate transfers (remember the saga of Maurice Smith’s transfer from Alabama to Georgia?), but have tabled the discussion for the time being.

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Many coaches, including Alabama’s Nick Saban, expressed distaste for players transferring within the conference earlier this week.

“I’ve never been in favor of free agency in our league. I don’t think that’s a good thing,” Saban said. “I wasn’t for it last year, I don’t think I’ll ever be for it. Why should guys leave your team and go play for somebody else and then you have to play against them? I don’t think that’s fair.”

For more Florida news, visit InsideTheGators.com.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!