So the NCAA has banned “satellite camps,” the practice established last year by Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh, who took his staff to the Deep South – including Prattville, where he was the comical victim of working shirtless.
The Southeastern Conference had a ban on a school having these camps – which in the case of Harbaugh going off campus had nothing to do with anything but recruiting – except on campus or within 50 miles of campus.
Look for Alabama Coach Nick Saban to get the blame (or credit, depending on how one looks at it) for the NCAA ban on the practice of coaches traveling hundreds of miles from their campus in hopes of attracting prospects.
Saban, however, was hardly affected by the satellite camps. Without the gimmick, he has managed to attract top prospects to Alabama using the longstanding techniques of having players come to Tuscaloosa to participate in camps and in having prep prospects on the Alabama campus for official and unofficial visits.
And, Saban said, “I'm really not even thinking that it has that much value. I love the system and the way we do it now.”
He challenged a reporter, saying, “What would be a more interesting question for you to research -- and I can't answer this -- the teams that have done them, what value does it serve? How many players did they get? They had some players commit to them and some of those players decommitted, and I know they even wanted to drop some of those players when they found out they could get better players.”
Saban has done some research, or at least some math.
“If everybody has a satellite camp, every player will have 62 camps to go to,” he said. “I don't know how that works. The way it is right now, if a player is interested and comes to your camp, he gets to see your campus, he gets to meet players, gets to work with your coaches a little bit more because he's in your camp at your place. I think there's a lot of value.”
Saban had another little jab for the proponents of the satellite camps. “Our camp has never changed philosophically in that our camp is not just a recruiting camp,” he said “Our camp is to promote and develop and help improve football players for their teams, and I think we can do that a lot better here in a three-day camp than we can running all around the country doing satellite camps just for recruiting purposes.
“We already have combines with Nike, we already have The Opening, we already have these things that are great for the players. How many teams play Division 1 football? Are they all going to have a satellite camp in every metropolitan area? That means they'll have 113 camps in Atlanta, 113 in Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Dallas, Houston.
“I mean, it sounds like a pretty ridiculous circumstance for me for something that nobody can really determine, did it have any value anyway?"
One argument made was that a high school player in Los Angeles or Atlanta might not be able to afford to go to a camp in Ann Arbor, Mich., and thus might miss out on the possibility of being recruited by the Wolverines. Never fear that college coaches can’t find and identify the best players in the country and recruit them. To be sure, there are advantages for both sides in having a player in camp. It’s the opportunity to weight them and time them and get to know them as young men beyond being athletes, and for the players to have the experience of working under the coaches of that school for a few days in the summer.
Alabama and Saban prove every February that coaches who produce successful players and winning teams at a college that is one of the most popular in the nation with non-athletes as well as athletes can recruit from anywhere.
Are there really more football prospects in the state of Alabama than in Michigan?