The NCAA reversed the decision of the Division I Council banning satellite camps last week. The SEC, which had operated under a conference-wide ban, will adopt the more lenient national rule starting on May 30th, so that it's member schools do not suffer a competitive disadvantage in recruiting.
The ruling has been greeted with much joy in Big Ten country, specifically Michigan fans, and Dan Wolken in his unending troll campaign against Alabama. Admittedly, their celebration of more lax recruiting rules does interest me, as this is the same crowd that was shocked and horrified by oversigning.
Now, we haven't covered the satellite camps issue here on ATVS because, well, I don't really care. Traditionally, the camps are important to the smaller schools, so I'm glad that they will still exist so that Group of Five schools can still recruit without busting their limited budgets. In the war between the power conferences, the little guys sometimes get caught in the crossfire and become unintended casualties.
Satellite camps are a near necessity for schools in the Sun Belt and the MAC. It allows them to recruit and evaluate a bunch of players at one time, saving their already limited budgets. Also, getting to participate in camps on a Power 5 campus is a huge leg up, and allows a smaller school to feed of their big brother's leftovers. No, not every kid in Louisiana can go to LSU. I'm all for the UL-Monroe's of the world getting first crack at the guys LSU is not going to offer.
However, the fans celebrating this rule are not doing so because they are passionate advocates of the Group of Five. No, this is about their favorite school getting to recruit the more fertile grounds of the deep south more effectively. Harbaugh already had one tour of SEC country, and is now assuredly going to repeat that successful foray into the south that yielded all of two four-star or greater recruits from south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Suddenly, people who were just horrified that recruiting is a dirty business in which coaches will exploit any loophole or stretch any rule to its breaking point are now thrilled by the great victory of, well, stretching a rule to its breaking point in order to benefit their team.
Hey, cool. That's what recruiting is all about. I try not to pretend to be outraged by the excesses of recruiting all being performed by our hated rivals, or even Michigan. The only thing that truly bothers me is the false sanctimony, as if Michigan fans care so deeply about those poor kids who now will get a shot at a college scholarship that otherwise would have been denied to them. Michigan fans don't give a good goddamn about those kids, they care about blue chippers who can help their program.
I am willing to bet there is not a single Michigan fan on earth who opposed a ban on satellite camps because of how it impacts MAC or Sun Belt recruiting. No, Michigan fans wanted the ban lifted because they want Harbaugh to have a better shot to recruit four and five star studs, who live predominantly in the south. And good for them. Bring it on. As SEC fans, we're not the least bit afraid of shady recruiting.
There's nothing wrong in wanting rules that are beneficial to your school. That's what lobbying is, and it's perfectly legitimate for the SEC and the Big Ten to argue their cases and try and push through legislation. That's how rulemaking bodies work. But make no mistake, this entirely about Michigan wanting to get top tier prospects to come north, not to help out undiscovered two-stars get exposure.
SEC programs are already planning satellite camps in Chicago, Dallas, Charlotte, and Ohio. I'm sure we'll see more after May 29 and especially in 2017 once there's been a full year to plan. Eventually, the camps will just become one more thing coaches due in the interminable slog of recruiting. One more stop on the hype train for the blue chip high school players across the nation.
Nick Saban's quotes have been trotted out as sore loser whining, but I'm reading this more like a threat,
"If we're all going to travel all over the country to have satellite camps, you know, how ridiculous is that?" Saban said Tuesday evening before the Crimson Caravan stop in Huntsville. "I mean we're not allowed to go to all-star games, but now we're going to have satellite camps all over the country. So it doesn't really make sense."
Over the past decade, the conferences and NCAA have consistently passed rules limiting the contact coaches can have with prospects, a lot of it due to Saban and other SEC coaches pushing the rules to their breaking points. The ban on the bump rule was almost entirely due to Saban's ability to show up near virtually every blue chip recruit in the south. We've limited phone calls, texts, visits official and unofficial, and when coaches can visit schools, but now the NCAA is going to pass a rule that allows coaches to hold an unlimited number of recruiting camps in an unlimited area of the country involving an unlimited number of potential recruits, and we're going to hail this as a victory for reform?
We've just handed Nick Saban an open invitation to go virtually anywhere at any time. Because these camps "prohibit" recruiting, they are not subject to the recruiting calendar. I'm not worried about Jim Harbaugh stealing our recruits, but I am worried about Nick Saban setting up camp in New Orleans, literally. He's going to open a camp on IMG's campus if he can.
This is a great thing for small schools and less heralded prospects. Group of Five schools need these camps. But Michigan and the Big Ten have essentially asked the NCAA to let Nick Saban have unlimited and nearly unfettered access to every blue chip athlete in the country, and this is a guy who lives to recruit. Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.