'Selfish interests of a few prevailed' — Coaches react to satellite camp ban

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Monday April 11, 2016


(Photo credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Surprise.

That was the reaction of many coaches after the NCAA’s immediate ban on FBS coaches working at off-campus satellite camps. Surprise that it passed. Surprise that it was a full-out ban. Surprise that it was an immediate ban. And that’s from coaches on both sides of the issue.

I’m trying to figure out how it benefits the kid,” Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich told CoachingSearch. “I’m looking for what the reasoning was. It’s really given a lot of exposure to kids who don’t have to spent their own money to get to all these college campuses, and get in front of more than a handful of coaches by going to a satellite camp.”

The SEC and ACC proposed the bans and already had their own conference rules against them. ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported the conferences that voted against the camps were the ACC, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12, Mountain West and Sun Belt. The conferences that voted in favor were the Big Ten, AAC, Conference USA and the MAC.

Hawaii is in the Mountain West. Rolovich hasn’t heard from the league on why it voted against camps, and he doesn’t know which coaches in the league wanted a ban, noting most of them did the camps. They're especially valuable in a place like Hawaii, with expensive travel costs. Last year, the school hosted a camp that brought in 85 coaches to see local players. Rolovich also said he wasn’t given any opportunity for feedback on the measure. Several coaches told CoachingSearch the same.

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Satellite camps have been around for years. They were mostly used by smaller schools to expand their reach and help fill rosters, though big schools went to local camps. They didn’t really become a national story until James Franklin went from Vanderbilt to Penn State and immediately made plans for camps in the South. The SEC wasn’t happy. A year later, Jim Harbaugh took it to another level, crossing the country, and the SEC and ACC fought back with their national proposals.

But it’s not the Big Ten schools that are most hurt by the ban. It’s the Group of 5 schools. Multiple Power 5 coaches said they would have been OK with a Power 5 ban — or limiting a school to only doing three or four.

The one thing I wish they would have done, if they were gonna ban it, that it would have just been a Power 5 ban, and let the mid-majors be allowed to go still,” Rutgers head coach Chris Ash told CoachingSearch. (Rutgers had planned to work camps). “At Ohio State, when we had a camp there, every MAC school was there. Every small school was there. It was not only one-stop shopping for recruits, but coaches. It gives them an opportunity to be evaluated.”

On Sunday, college and high school players from the Detroit area used the hashtag “#ChangeNCAA” to express their disagreement with the ban. The popular Sound Mind Sound Body camp in Detroit can no longer include FBS coaches. College players from Michigan and Michigan State explained how it was an opportunity for them to get in front of tons of coaches, especially if they weren’t financially able to travel to every school’s campus.

Central Michigan head coach John Bonamego planned to work several camps throughout the state. He would have been OK allowing coaches to only work in-state camps. He half-jokingly said he wanted to bill the NCAA for the cost of reprinting brochures that have to change. For MAC coaches, satellite camps can get them in front of more talented kids, who may not think about a MAC camp.

“Michigan’s not going to be able to recruit every kid that’s at their camp,” Bonamego said. “Some of those kids end up in the MAC or other conferences. Ultimately, we’re hurting the players and their ability to have exposure to multiple schools by going to one camp.”

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But for all the outcry, this was a vote. More conferences voted against it, even if they haven’t totally explained why. Rolovich hasn’t heard from the Mountain West. The Sun Belt released a statement that didn’t actually give a reason. (Georgia State and Appalachian State were against the ban). Mike Leach says the "vast majority" of Pac-12 coaches were against a ban, and he doesn't know why his conference voted for it.

In the end, this came down to the wishes of the ACC and SEC.

Kirby Smart said the ban is “probably a sigh of relief,” though Georgia and many other SEC schools had plans in place. Hugh Freeze was honest with his thoughts, and he admitted coaches wanted a little more free time in June, given the hours they already work.

“I’m selfish with my time,” Freeze said, per the Clarion-Ledger. “I’m away from my family enough, and I just did not want to go. I was ready to. We would’ve jumped in with the rest of them and gone to work. But I’m glad we can have a camp and I can sleep at home.”

In February, Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi told CoachingSearch, “We have families. I’ve got a wife and four kids. Anybody who does those camps, if you ask the assistants, they don’t want to do them. They wish they’d be done with.”

Several coaches expressed concern that there would be loads of camps in major cities, and kids would be pressured to go to all of them.

“I understand there’s one side of the fence that says, ‘Well, it could cost kids opportunities,’” Freeze said. “There’s the other side of the fence that it could’ve been a total circus that would put so much pressure on these kids because you might have 50 camps in Atlanta or Dallas.”

Kevin Sumlin says recruiting is already such an intense and long process that the ban leaves one less thing to worry about. He, too, had plans if it didn’t pass.

“We like recruiting, but at a certain point, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere,” Sumlin said. “For us, having guys on campus is more important than flying around the country, shaking hands and working a guy out for a day.”

Of course, there was never a requirement to do the camps. Only the SEC and ACC banned them previously, and it’s not like every other school was traveling around the country. Even if the SEC lifted its ban, the coaches didn’t have to do them, though there would have been pressure to do so.

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So the ban is in place, and schools are already making changes. Ash plans to have a staff meeting this week to talk about ways to make up for the loss of the camps. A Group of 5 recruiting director told CoachingSearch it changes everything for them. The NCAA Board of Directors will look at the ban on April 28.

Old Dominion head coach Bobby Wilder told the Virginian-Pilot that he will file a waiver request to allow Michigan, Maryland and Penn State to come to ODU’s camp, noting that hundreds of players have already registered.

It is clear to me the NCAA made the decision based on a few Power 5 conferences that are clearly opposed to these camps,” Wilder said. “I feel strongly these camps are a benefit to all the high school kids that cannot afford to travel individually to the schools they hope to attend due to the cost restraints on individual families.”

Bonamego said Central Michigan would probably have to expand its on-campus camps, but there may be scheduling and facilities issues this late in the process.

No coach spoke out more than Leach, who camped in California with the Washington State staff. In typical Leach fashion, he didn’t hold back, but he’s not alone in his thoughts.

“It appears that the selfish interests of a few schools and conferences prevailed over the best interests of future potential student-athletes,” Leach told the Seattle Times. “The mission of universities and athletic programs should be to provide future student-athletes with exposure to opportunities, not to limit them. It appears to me that some universities and conferences are willing to sacrifice the interests of potential student-athletes for no better reasons than to selfishly monopolize their recruiting bases.

“I will be fascinated to hear any legitimate reasoning behind this ruling. We need to rethink this if we are actually what we say we are.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.