The SEC has changed a conference rule on graduate transfers, opening the door for former Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire to choose the Gators as his transfer destination.
Schools under Zaire's consideration include Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Florida, per ESPN, but until now, the Gators haven't been a viable option because of an SEC rule prohibiting schools from accepting graduate transfers for three years if previous graduate transfers fail to meet academic requirements. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey announced that the rule was changed to one year on Friday at league meetings in Sandestin, Fla., which clears the way for Zaire to play for the Gators this fall if he chooses UF. Former Gators Anthony Harrell and Mason Halter failed to meet academic requirements as graduate transfers in 2015, per the Orlando Sentinel, which placed UF in the three-year penalty window that would have prevented the Gators from adding Zaire.
This tweet was posted to Zaire's account on Friday after news of the rule change broke:
Zaire was released from his scholarship in November, but his decision on where to play as a fifth-year senior has dragged on for an unusually long period. The delay fueled speculation that he has been waiting on the SEC to address its rule.
"As soon as possible," Zaire told ESPN on Thursday. "I want to get in before fall camp and before school starts so I can be around the guys and get rolling on those relationships."
Zaire won the starting job at Notre Dame for the 2015 season, but an ankle injury in the second game of the season cost him the rest of the year, and opened the door for DeShone Kizer to take over the starting job. Last year, Zaire opened the season sharing time at QB Kizer but quickly was relegated to backup duty behind Kizer, who was a second-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in this year's draft. Over the last three seasons, Zaire completed 58 of 98 passes for 816 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions for the Fighting Irish.
If Zaire chooses Florida, he'll compete for playing time with with Luke Del Rio, the son of Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, and freshman Feleipe Franks.