Josh Kendall

There’s a boogeyman in the hallways of the SEC meetings

Jim Harbaugh and Nick Saban
Jim Harbaugh and Nick Saban

This may be the only city in America where Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh isn’t hosting a satellite camp, but it sure feels like he’s here this week.

Harbaugh is the boogeyman in the halls. The ghost story old wives tell their kids to get them to mind.

“Eat your broccoli or The Harbaugh will get you.”

“Lock up that five-star recruit or The Harbaugh will snatch him in the middle of the night.”

He’s really not all that scary, says John Lucido.

“He’s down to earth. I heard all these stories before I met him. ‘Oh, he’s crazy and all this,” Lucido said, “but he was a cool guy. He was real laid back.”

Lucido is the head coach of the Antioch High Panthers in Antioch, Calif. The reason that’s important for this conversation is that Najee Harris plays running back for Antioch High School. Harris is 6-foot-3, 226 pounds and considered the No. 1 running back recruit in the country, according to 247Sports.com’s composite rankings.

He is verbally committed to play at Alabama beginning in 2017, but that could change.

“I know he’s open,” Lucido said. “He’s going to take his (five official visits).”

The chances seem pretty high that Michigan is going to get one of those official visits since Harbaugh will be the host of a satellite camp at Antioch on the evening of June 23.

The Wolverines staff will “run” the camp, Lucido said, although no money will change hands either way between Antioch and the University of Michigan, he said. The Wolverines will be a part of 38 satellite camps in 21 states and two countries this month. Harbaugh is expected to attend around 30 of those in person, according to reporting by the Detroit Free Press.

You better believe Antioch’s will be one where Harbaugh is.

“It’s a good chance to get a look at Najee up close,” said Lucido, who added that hosting the satellite camp improves the Wolverines chances of landing Harris.

None of this makes Alabama head coach Nick Saban very happy at all. Saban went on a by now pretty well-known rant against the idea of satellite camps here Tuesday.

“Until this satellite camp issue camp up – which I don’t really care to talk about…,” Saban said.

That phrase came in the ninth sentence of an answer to a question about running more thorough background checks on high school recruits. Nobody asked Saban about satellite camps, and it’s even money no one would have. This is an issue almost everyone is happy to let simmer on the back burner for a while – everyone except SEC head coaches and commissioner Greg Sankey.

“Anybody can have a camp now. If they have a prospect, they can have a camp and then you’re expected to go to that camp and then they can use you to promote their camp because Ohio State is coming, Alabama is coming, whoever else is coming,” Saban said. “Somebody sponsors a camp, they pay them the money. What do they do with the money? And who makes sure the kid paid to go to the camp? I mean, this is the wild, wild West at its best.”

Sankey and the league’s football coaches are making the argument that the decision to allow satellite camps is paving the way for football recruiting to become like basketball recruiting, where the AAU circuit has become the prime recruiting territory.

“We don’t think satellite camps are healthy in college football,” Sankey said. “They are about recruiting. I am concerned and I think this conference remains concerned about what happens around those camps. That is the football recruiting culture that has been adopted now. We’ll see exactly what takes place now.”

“It’ll be interesting to see what we just opened up,” Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin echoed.

The SEC coaches may prove to be prophetic. Right now they just look spooked.

“I’m not blaming Jim Harbaugh, I’m not saying anything about him,” Saban said. “I’m just saying it’s bad for college football. Jim Harbaugh can do whatever he wants to do. I’m not saying anything bad about him.”

That may be true, but as long as SEC coaches allow Harbaugh to buy up all the prime real estate in their psyche, he’s going to make himself at home.

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