There's some irony in the thought that satellite camps, events that can help thousands of young men find ways to further their education, has caused grown, educated professionals to act like greedy, spoiled, petulant morons.
What's that? Why yes, I am talking about both Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh's little temper tantrums over social and traditional media yesterday. Long story short, for those of you who's eyes roll back and your heads at the very mention of the word "satellite camps": Saban is really mad that he has to deal with satellite camps, said as much and that he believes they are bad for college football and raise ethical concerns; Harbaugh thinks that Nick should shut his stupid face and that somebody who just fired a long-time assistant for (finally getting caught after years of) breaking recruiting rules shouldn't really lecture anybody about the ethics of the sport.
Gentlemen, may I say to the both of you...
For Saban, this really just comes down to one thing -- control. It's not about ethics, or concerns about Michigan or the rest of the Big 10 invading his recruiting territory, or any of that. Prattville, Alabama, is not about to become Michigan Territory. When major programs began to use satellite camps as recruitment tools in the South (Yes, when the coach of a major program sets foot off his camps to do anything football-related he is recruiting. Period, end of discussion. If you don't believe that you're either an obtuse troll or a naïve moron.), it created an aspect of the recruiting game that Lil Scream & Shout couldn't control.
And Saban and Alabama have a pretty strong handle on recruiting, if you haven't noticed. Now sure, the SEC lifting the off-campus camp ban allows Alabama to set up wherever they would like. "Why don't they just refuse to participate -- it's not like they've had trouble recruiting across the country?" You might ask. Well, escalation is the name of the game in recruiting; if they're doing it, you better do it. If they have a water feature in their locker room and X-Box 360s in each locker, you better set up the Bellagio Fountains and an Occulus Rift on every bench machine. Or at least that's what coaches like Saban believe, anyway. It's hard to argue with that either, given his success.
But even with the ability to set up camps with other partners, Saban has to give up some control, and he knows it. An Alabama camp is Roll Tide 247 -- messaging, teaching, everything is done to program specs. A camp in, say, Atlanta that features Alabama and Georgia Southern, will feature other messaging, other teaching from the host school and every other partner involved. And if it's held on another college's campus, they'll be pocketing the majority of the cash as well.
And all of that sticks in Saban's craw like a smushed Little Debbie.
As for Harbaugh...look Jim. I love you, personally. You're a great follow on twitter, fantastic for the game and the day Les Miles retires is the day I start campaigning for us to offer you eleventy billion dollars to succeed him.
But you're behaving like a dumbass.
Satellite camps work well for small programs that can't draw hundreds of kids to their own campuses. They allow for more opportunities to evaluate kids and more opportunities to build relationships with those kids. But they don't make a ton of sense for a major program like a Michigan, Ohio State, USC, so on and so forth.
The battles for recruits on that level are won on your own campus with recruits. You show Johnny Midwest why Ann Arbor is way better than Columbus and why Coach Jim is way more fun than that miserable asshole Urban Meyer (editorial comment, although you know Harbaugh thinks it) in person. Not on his high school campus or on some third-party facility. And while it is important for a school like Michigan to push their brand out in locales with more talent, like Florida or Texas or California, the mathematical reality is that a satellite camp in one of those states is only going to net you, at most, one or two kids per class. And even then, you probably had a good shot at those kids anyway, without the camp.
Geography is, was, and remains the single biggest factor in college football recruiting. Southern kids tend to wind up somewhere in the region. Ditto most Midwest recruits, West Coast, Texas, so on and so forth. There will always be exceptions -- kids that just want to get away. It's the same as with any teenager. Those are the kids that wind up at the national powers like USC, Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, etc... So when Michigan puts on a camp in California, they're largely recruiting against the other Midwest powers for the handful of kids on hand that aren't going to stay out west.
Michigan spent nearly $350,000 for their little trip to IMG Academy. The reported 30 camps in 21 states this summer will likely cost UM millions. There's virtually no chance Michigan will see a real return on investment in terms of an actual talent influx.
But then, Harbaugh's motto isn't "attacking the day with efficiency previously unseen by mankind," is it? He believes that if he's in every state at once, every kid he recruits will see just how much he's outworking everybody else, and that will make them want to come to Michigan more than the Winged Helmets or anything else. It's definitely a different strategy, but it isn't necessarily the smartest one.
Nevermind that he's risked ruining a valuable recruiting tool for mid-major programs in the process. Not his problem. And the way other coaches have allowed it to get under their skin has only given Harbaugh another chance to engage in his real passion -- picking fights.
And who better to do it with than the undisputed top coach in the sport, right?
The college football interwebz tends to be a ridiculously binary place, where you either have to pick one side or another. Well count me out on this one. They're both jackasses.