If you look at satellite football camps as a big swimming pool in which you can either step in slowly or rush right into, Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema has decided to metaphorically dive off into the deep end.
“I mean, there's just going to be so many doors that open up,” Bielema said during a Thursday press conference. “Opportunities to go into unchartered waters that are legal now for us in building your brand and recruiting. It's just unimaginable.”
The NCAA recently overturned a ruling that prohibited having camps off campus - dubbed satellite camps - and Bielema is adamant about taking advantage of that ruling and even taking it global.
Bielema said he was looking at having a camp June 5th at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock with other colleges in Arkansas and had set a date in June with Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice-President, CEO and Director of Player Personnel Stephen Jones for one at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
He is also looking at ones somewhere in the states of Michigan, Florida and Ohio and in big cities such as Houston, New Orleans and Chicago.
Bielema's also checking to see if he can have camps in the Bahamas and in Europe.
“Yeah,” Bielema said. “The whole idea and the purpose that everybody complained about to bring the rule back in, was to give opportunities. You've given an opportunity that's unlimited, unprecedented … unprotected on what you can and cannot do.
“Your ability to go in and change the direction of a young man's recruiting decision I think is greatly affected. Because now you're bringing coaches to parts of the country they've never been before at an unprecedented recruiting time.
“…And it's really going to get into the haves and have-nots, because you've got some coaches that have an unlimited revenue to go do these things.
"You've got donor planes that sit 13 coaches that can go anywhere when they want to go at the drop of hat and be at another major city the next day or double-dip on the same day. It's crazy.”
The possible ones in the Bahamas and Europe are rooted in having former or current players from there during his time as an assistant at Iowa and as a head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas.
“I started thinking about it and we have had two players - players from the Bahamas - that have heritage going back to that and I go to the Bahamas and go fishing all the time and there are guys all the time that say ‘Coach, I can play, I can play,’” Bielema said.
“…I go over there with (Florida Atlantic head coach and former Arkansas assistant) Charlie Partridge, him and (former Bielema assistant and current North Carolina State head coach) Dave Doreen and they are both coaches that I have gone over there with fishing and we know the terrain.
“We are going to work through the details there, we have got to find a host site, but a lot of our track athletes originate from there and we just have to have a fit within the NCAA rules.
“And obviously (current Razorback and Denmark native) Hjalte (Froholdt), with the success we have had with him, if there is anything over there in his neck of the woods or his part of the world, it is definitely something that we will pursue, too.”
Asked if he was trying to take his program global, Bielema responded with a quote from the movie Step Brothers with Will Farrell and John C. Reilly.
“Global, prestige worldwide,” Bielema said.
The idea of having one with Arkansas State and other Arkansas colleges came from a discussion he had recently with Red Wolves head coach Blake Anderson.
“I was at the American Football Coaches Association this past weekend and Coach Anderson from A-State was there as well as the coach from Ouachita Baptist,” Bielema said. “We got to talking and what we're going to do is have an All-Arkansas camp in Little Rock.
“We're looking right now at the date of the 5th (of June) at War Memorial. We were just kind of sitting there brainstorming over dinner. We'll invite every coach in the state of Arkansas and open it up.”
The fact that Arkansas has a policy of not playing in-state teams has nothing to do with the camps according to Bielema.
“I don't really get worked up over things that don't concern me,” Bielema said. “When I first got here I was kind of overwhelmed, that people kept saying things to me about, whether it be A-State or somebody else.
“… I've got coaches that work there that are friends. Brian Early is the father of one of my best players (Dre Greenlaw). I let him come on an official visit here. People were calling me crazy at that time.
“… I had never been around Coach (Anderson). We've only been around each other just a little bit. He and I sat by each other for two-and-half days. We've got a great relationship.
“I just thought if there's something that we can do to promote the state of Arkansas and promote football and promote Little Rock and War Memorial and the history, why not do this?
“So we'll jump into it with them. I think A-State will probably host it actually. We've got to get all the details in line, we can have coaches come in here from all the smaller schools, Division II, Division III, during spring ball. I've always just kind of wrapped my arms around it and embraced it.
“You're still promoting football and you're still promoting Arkansas. You're doing all the things that are good for our state. I don't know why you'd limit it.”
It seems natural that Arkansas would have one at Cowboys Stadium since both owner Jerry Jones and his son Stephen are Arkansas graduates and big supporters.
“I talked to Stephen Jones yesterday,” Bielema said. “We are going to be able to have one in Cowboys Stadium. We've worked out a date there. We've just got to work on the logistics. I think we'll be one of the very few that does a pro stadium exclusively. We're partnering with a college in Texas, as well, that allows us to go do that.”
Arkansas can also have as many camps inside of his own borders as it wants while still having the ones it regularly schedules on its own campus.
“We can do as many camps as we want in our own state,” Bielema said. “We want to make sure we still get kids on our campus, which is very important, but we also want to use it as a way to help our players and high school coaches in our own state.”
Bielema notes that he could take all of his staff - not just the assistant coaches - to camps or he could just sent one.
“I could, but don’t have to,” Bielema said. “For me, just thinking, what we're saying right now, if you've got a high school, whether it's in-state or out-of-state and they want us, and we say, hey, this is why we want to come.’
“ … We build up exposure to that program and that high school coach gets to take in every bit of revenue, in addition to having us there, maybe we clinic for an hour on punt return, and of course we're going to do it, because we want to be around the prospects.
“We want to build our brand. But the only person that maybe needs to go, if it's a wide receiver, Michael Smith goes and works with the wide receivers at that camp. He's a very entertaining, good football coach. You could swing that kid's decision in one session.
“ That's open to everybody on our staff, including my nine non-coaches. So every one of my GAs, Taylor Reed can go work with quarterbacks, Brey Cook, who's a great, fun kid to be around. I can send him to work O-line camps. We can go and volunteer.
“We could fly a little bit in any direction and literally show up at someone's camp, and just say, 'Hey, we're here to volunteer.' They can't really do anything about it. You walk around and volunteer your supervision and your help. There's nothing that says you can’t."