The annual SEC Meetings, where coaches trade in clipboards and dark film rooms for flip flops, sand and the beaches of Destin, Florida.
Hot topic issues included satellite camps (something the SEC opposes), full cost of attendance (something the SEC backs) and for the Florida Gators, the all important facilities arms race.
Currently, the NCAA allows coaches to hold “satellite camps” away from their universities in the summer. The rule allows coaches from other schools to travel long distances to work as guests at camps that are hosted by other institutions. Typically, smaller schools will ask the coaching staff from a larger university to come to the camp and help instruct. This is a win for the smaller school as they can advertise the opportunity to get coached by someone who runs a powerful Division I program. Last year, James Franklin was able to leave State College, Pennsylvania and attend camps at Stetson and Georgia Southern. This allows Franklin to leave his home state and enter the fertile recruiting grounds in he South.
This year, Jim Harbaugh and Michigan created waves when they announced their camp tour that will hit seven states and nine camps this summer.
The SEC and ACC are the only two Power 5 conferences that don’t allow their coaches to leave a 50-mile radius for such camps and, really, can you blame them? Schools in the Southeastern Conference are competing for some of the most talented high school talent in the country that’s right in their backyard. They don’t need to travel north of the Mason-Dixon line to fill out their rosters and they’re not exactly in love with the idea of northern schools coming down to whisk away some of that talent.
“Here’s part of what I really believe,” Jim McElwain said on Tuesday. “Whatever the rules are, we’re all going to play by them.”
It’s the fault of the SEC, however. They are the ones imposing extra sanctions on themselves and are now suffering the consequences. The conference as a whole could do away with their legislation and allow McElwain, Nick Saban, Butch Jones, Kevin Sumlin and the rest of their coaches to fly all over the country in an attempt to poach talent on an even larger national scale.
The other three members of the Power 5 schools don’t seem to be budging on their stance.
“The important thing for us as a conference — now I was kind of an outsider looking in,” McElwain said. “I think the legislation that we have, to limit ourselves where others aren’t limited, other conferences that can use that against us in recruiting, we need to probably do is come to some form of agreement nationally as to this is what we’re going to do.”
New SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey stated that if a nationwide satellite camp rule doesn’t pass the league would probably be forced to adjust to “the competitive landscape.”
That’s not a bad thing.
On the surface, these camps provide a recruiting advantage for coaches. To often the perception is that there should be a gentlemen’s agreement between men who are paid millions of dollars and exist in a glass pressure cooker with the nation watching. Does Jim Harbaugh gain a competitive advantage over Jim McElwain because he can go to a camp in Prattville, Alabama and potentially recruit prospects at the camp, yeah, absolutely.
But what about the other kids at the camp. The ones who may never play a single down of Division I football in their lives? If they can’t afford to fly across the country to attend a camp where an opportunity to be coached by one of the best coaches in the profession is, why can’t they have the opportunity for that coach to come to them. In a perfect world, coaches would use the camp as an opportunity to affect young people and help out the next generation of football players, whether those players are Division I stars or guys who will play in Division III and go on to be business owners, entrepreneurs and regular members of society. We don’t live in a hermetically sealed bubble and would be naive in thinking that, but the fact that some — or all — coaches would use these satellite camps strictly as a recruiting tool may be a necessary evil.
The SEC and ACC are at a competitive disadvantage with satellite camps but the wounds are self-inflicted. They’re not going to get the others to bend to their will, so it’s time to change the way you’re thinking.