Josh Kendall

Ban satellite camps? SEC coaches want to keep recruiting advantages all to themselves

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban
Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve been taught well, you’ve been taught in some form the philosophy that you only punch up.

You don’t take shots at people or things further down than you on whatever scale you happen to be discussing. If you’re at the top of the mountain, you’re not allowed to moan about whatever advantage you might perceive the guy still climbing to have. Goliath was not allowed to complain that David brought a slingshot. It would have been poor form.

Much like it’s poor form when SEC coaches whine about satellite camps. What’s a satellite camp, you say? It’s an abomination to the American Way and an affront to Southern soil only slightly less appalling in scale than the War of Northern Aggression if you listen to some of the coaches in college football’s power conference. In reality, it’s just a football camp.

Specifically, it’s a football camp co-hosted by a college coach outside their home state or region. Conference rules don’t allow SEC coaches (or ACC coaches) to hold or host camps outside a 50-mile radius from their campus.

It’s a former SEC coach, naturally, who started all this in the first place. Penn State head coach James Franklin came to Atlanta last year to co-host a camp at Georgia State. Nebraska will come to Georgia State this year. New Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will barnstorm through seven states this summer. Satellite camps are becoming “a thing.”

The fear in the SEC is that the camps will provide a recruiting advantage for folks outside the conference.

“Ironically, when we’re talking about satellite camps -- as we remember camps, they were instructional and development opportunities,” incoming SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said during a meeting of the Associated Press Sports Editors’ Southeast Region in April. “Now, what we're talking about is recruiting tours. So, let’s just be clear about what we’re really talking about here.”

Sankey’s right, of course. James Frankin isn’t coming to Atlanta because he’s concerned some kid at McEachern High School is not tackling with the proper form. Sankey and the rest of the SEC’s administrators and coaches are sure to discuss the topic at next week’s spring meetings in Destin, Fla., and they’ll all make some statement that means the following, “We would like to keep all the recruiting advantages to ourselves, thanks.”

Alabama head coach Nick Saban has called satellite camps “ridiculous.” If the SEC wants to remove its ban on travel, fine, but there is no need. Longtime Georgia assistant Mike Bobo, who is now the head coach at Colorado State, made that point earlier this month.

“Obviously in the South, schools and states are close together, it’s easier to get guys to camp (on campus),” Bobo told CoachingSearch.com. “It’s a way to get our program in front of kids. It’s evaluating guys and giving them the opportunity to get a scholarship, where they might not have had the opportunity to camp at Colorado State because of the distance or cost of a flight.”

The problem for the SEC when you apply the “only punch up” tenant is there’s nobody above you to punch. The Southeastern Conference’s combination of geography, tradition, devotion and financial resources is unmatched.

The last thing SEC football coaches really want is a level playing field. Nick Saban doesn’t want James Franklin in Atlanta? You know what Franklin wants? He wants it to be 76 degrees in Pennsylvania in October (which is the average high in Columbia in October), and he wants all those people who moved out when the steel mills closed in the 1980s to come back.

Franklin isn’t going to get his wish. Saban probably will.

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