Satellite camps are dead, and they will rest in pettiness.
The NCAA’s Division I council has decided that, from here on out, schools are only allowed to host camps on their own campuses or at their own facilities, which is legalese for “stay in your own backyard.”
If you aren’t up to speed on the camps, here’s the premise: There are a lot of kids in this country who want to play college football and a lot of colleges that want football players. And while recruiting has been a national operation for a very long time, coaches have limited time and opportunities to recruit outside their states, and players have limited resources to visit far-away schools.
Until Friday, coaches not from the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference — which have rules banning satellite camps — could go anywhere they wanted, set up a day camp, and meet and coach players from a town hundreds of miles away. Even with the camps, coaches from Michigan couldn’t get to see every prospect in Florida, or California, or Texas, and certainly not every kid in those states had a chance to try to impress them.
Satellite camps helped to bridge that gap, but now that bridge is closed.
Chief among Friday’s winners are coaches from the SEC and ACC, who were already prohibited from participating in satellite camps. The rules are evened out for them now, and the access to dynamic athletes in the Southeast part of the country is once again tilted dramatically in their favor. They know the high schools, the coaches, the players to watch, and now they’ve made it a little harder for Jim Harbaugh to get his hands in the cookie jar.
But even though Harbaugh is the face of these camps, Michigan is not the biggest loser in Friday’s ruling. The Wolverines will keep reeling in top recruits because they can afford to put that work in. In fact, the loser of this ruling isn’t really any college football team, because at the end of the day, they are college football teams. Recruiting is recruiting, and they’ll do it with or without the camps, spending massive amounts of time and money on kids who are currently thinking up promposals.
The people this hurts most are the 15-, 16- and 17-year-old kids who have no idea where or if they will ever play college football, and those kids aren’t typically Michigan recruits. Even the lower-tiered recruits the Wolverines do sign typically hold offers from other schools, if not other powerhouses.
The ones who truly lost on Friday would have gone to satellite camps looking to get noticed by anyone, not just Jim Harbaugh.
It’s really easy, in the football world, to lull yourself into believing that hard work really does cure all ails and grittiness trumps luck every time. That is not the case, especially for high schoolers whose names don’t have stars attached and whose pockets are virtually empty.
Those kids can’t always just fly to Ann Arbor or Palo Alto or anywhere to meet up with a coach they want to play for. They don’t get to be nearly as picky about where they play ball, because first and foremost, they need to find somewhere that wants them.
And to be fair, this rule doesn’t explicitly target those kids, and its aim is not to make their lives any harder. But that’s what it does.
The NCAA made this rule, ostensibly, out of fairness to schools who aren’t allowed to host these camps, which is understandable on a shallow surface level, but very disappointing on a deeper one. There are more ways to create fairness than closing loopholes, and the SEC and ACC could have just as easily changed their own rules to allow satellite camps. You can level a playing field without dropping it on both sides.
Instead, they helped kill the camps everywhere else.
In terms of football strategy, that’s just playing the game. They picked their battle and they won.
But don’t forget that the kids who got punished by Friday’s ruling can’t be picky. And now more than ever, they’re hardly even allowed to be.