On Friday, the NCAA banned the use of satellite camps effective immediately because the SEC is a little scared.
For those unfamiliar with satellite camps, they are essentially used by coaches to travel longer distances as “guests” to camps held by high schools or smaller colleges. The NCAA restricts coaches from holding camps outside a 50-mile radius of their respective campus, but thanks to this prior loophole, coaches and their staffs attend other camps as “guests” to broaden their influence. They can also reach out to lesser-known prospects who wouldn’t otherwise have access to high-end coaches.
In theory, this is a great idea and a fair recruiting tactic. Penn State head coach James Franklin introduced the term in 2014, but the controversy surrounding these camps came to prominence thanks to Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
The SEC and ACC have self-imposed bans on satellite camps, so their stance is clear, but when Franklin was touring the country, both conferences were relatively okay with it and didn’t fuss too much.
But over the past year, the SEC and ACC (primarily the SEC) adamantly supported a ban on satellite camps. They didn’t do this because they were sick and tired of Franklin, but because they are petrified of Harbaugh and what he is capable of as a coach.
If this were a mid-major coach setting up camps in Wyoming or Delaware, they wouldn’t be a blimp on the SEC’s radar. But this is Jim Harbaugh, one of the most recognizable figures in football — a coach who transformed Stanford into a Pac-12 power and the San Francisco 49ers into Super Bowl contenders — and is now thrusting Michigan back into the national spotlight. He’s storming the SEC’s backyard like the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
The SEC is in full retreat. The conference is searching for any way to prevent Harbaugh from digging into its monopoly on talent even further than he already has.
Harbaugh’s approach to recruiting may be unorthodox, but its effectiveness cannot be denied. In an era where social media creates a disconnect between human and machine, Harbaugh is connecting with recruits through unconventional methods, such as climbing trees and having sleepovers. Yes, he’s a little awkward, rough around the edges, along with intimidating and intense — but the results don’t lie. The Wolverines had the No. 5 recruiting class according to 247sports, winning the Rashan Gary sweepstakes.
In any other era, Harbaugh’s Twitter jabs at Tennessee head coach Butch Jones would scare recruits away. But this generation of athlete is made of a different cloth. Boldness and authenticity matter more than decorum and political correctness. His willingness to challenge the power conference is attractive to recruits who have spent their entire lives with chips on their shoulders.
The SEC’s convenient aggression toward the ban on satellite camps confirms that Harbaugh inhabits their head, consuming their thoughts and haunting their dreams of continuous glory.
That’s why they never feared Franklin utilizing these camps. Penn State never has — and never will — be a legitimate threat to the SEC with Franklin as its coach. They’re familiar with his days at Vanderbilt. Those were wildly successful given the context of that program’s history, but with an up-close and personal view, it’s safe to say the SEC is fine with Franklin’s futile attempt at college football supremacy.
On the other hand, Harbaugh is more than capable of toppling the SEC. Michigan defeated Florida 41-7 in last year’s Citrus Bowl. Although it was against one of the worst offenses in the country, it was a dominant performance nevertheless.
No matter what, the SEC will never admit to its obsessive fear over Harbaugh’s inevitable success. Instead, they hide behind the “we don’t see the value in it” card. Bologna. Absolute bologna.
If the SEC didn’t see any inherent value with satellite camps, then they would be fine with coaching staffs from other conferences wasting time. But when Harbaugh visits Prattville, Alabama — the home of one of the best high school football programs that lies more than 50 miles away from both Alabama and Auburn – the SEC realizes the potential damage.
Remember how some kids could get everything they wanted because they cried about it? That’s what the SEC accomplished with Friday’s ruling. Because they pocket the most money for the NCAA, their complaints will be heard with both ears. Ultimately, the decision will benefit them and screw the little guy.
The little guy in this case isn’t Harbaugh or Michigan. The little guy is the group of prospects who will no longer be gaining access to coaching staffs at elite programs. Four and five-star recruits have every opportunity to gain access to Alabama or LSU or Michigan or Ohio State, but what about the two-star recruit who perhaps would impress a coach like Harbaugh or Urban Meyer? Yeah, the N-SEC-AA doesn’t care about them.
Perception is everything, and the perception of the SEC will be negatively altered by this move. They won’t nosedive off a cliff in terms of recruiting and success, but Harbaugh’s tactics have opened the floodgates for a geographical shift in desired destinations for recruits.
It’ll be interesting to see if a brutal, but entertaining rivalry between the Big Ten and SEC blossoms out of this situation. Satellite camps or not, Harbaugh is here to stay.
Featured image courtesy of Brad Muckenthaler
Edited by Nathan Odom