College Summer Camps: Pro or Con?

Just eight short years ago college summer camps were simply an afterthought with recruiting analysts and junkies alike. Camp was just a nice little outing for a few high school players to fill some summer vacation time.

Fast-forward to 2003. With the limitations the NCAA has placed on college programs in making "contact" with high schools players throughout the school year, summer camps have become a necessity. Now, camps are used in the same manner NFL scouts use their combines-to evaluate and make decisions on the players a coaching staff will or will not extend an early scholarship to.

But, like everything else, there are positives and negatives in the summer camp process and subsequent early offers. Let's look at both sides of the issue.

The Positives

A. Confirming the actual height, weight, speed and strength of a player.

What you see on recruiting lists are usually wrong, always have been wrong and are likely to always be wrong. This way a staff can know for certain. And not only gather these salient statistics, but also gauge the flexibility and certain instincts in a potential prospect. A defense back is one example. Can he back pedal? Can he turn his hips? Does he have makeup speed in coverage? A coach can get a fairly good idea on these types of physical characteristics through testing in camp.

B. Coaches Developing Relationships with Freshmen and Sophomores

Juniors-to-be Senior's are not the only ones that attend camp. You are likely to find just as many freshmen and sophomores in the group. This is a way for D-I coaches to make an early impression on young players and also to help them develop their skills through their high school careers. It's also a way for college coaches to develop relationships with high school coaches that are asked to assist in their camps.

C. Additional Revenue for Athlete Departments

Make no mistake. College Football is Big Business. With the continued growth of college summer camps, so does the amount of revenue that flows into an athletic program's coffer. There are reports of 1,500 prospects attending one university's camp this summer with projections of 2,000 for 2004. Prices range from $35 for the one-day mini-camp to $360 for a full or combination camp. Start doing the math and you'll discover this is quickly becoming a substantial figure-which will continue to escalate.

The Negatives

A. Properly Evaluating Talent

Every year, college head coaches drawing anywhere from $500K to $2.0M are either retained or fired. And the ability to evaluate talent is always a key issue in a coach's success or their ultimate demise.

Only a few years ago, coaches wanted to see how a player performed in his season year before extending a scholarship offer. Now, you see more and more early offers. Most of those players will attend summer camps and will be offered on the spot. Some questions that come to mind:

A few of the old rules still apply in recruiting and this is one. Who are you competing with on this kid? Who else has offered and who is genuinely interested? Most know who the top guys are and if they're willing to commit early, fine.

If the top schools aren't courting a player, did he have such a dominant year as a junior, combined with what he showed in camp, to extend an early offer?

NFL scouts have taken many "computer" takes that have turned out to be "busts" and they'll continue to do so. Oh, they are 6-4, weigh 250, run a sub 4.5, bench 225 pounds 700+ times and leap over tall buildings in a single bound. One problem. A year and a half later, it's discovered this Superman can't play football. NFL head coaches and their talent scouts get fired too.

College summer camps are no different. Some kids that can "fly" in shorts and T-shirts, can't separate from a defender once they put on the pads. Not being able to "carry" their pads is the proper terminology. You even see punters and kickers being taken in summer camps these days. How can you properly measure their ability in those types of conditions? No pads. No pressure. And no way to make a sound judgment.

Here's a good way to see if your program's staff is making sound summer camp offers. Most of you recruit-a-holics know who attended your schools camp. Run your finger down the current two-deep roster. How many were early camps takes and of those, who do you feel is really a big-time producer?

There's one other item to consider. Over the past three years, how many summer takes are on the two-deep roster? How many are no longer on the roster? Some will argue that's not an issue due to a better player taking his scholarship down the road. That sounds good on the surface, but there's at least one large problem.

When too many players leave early, proper depth and experience will never be established at every position. There will always be holes to fill somewhere. Every pre-season you can hear a head coach say, "We're a young ball club." Could be a good reason for that.

In the age of 25/85, scholarships are a precious commodity. Programs cannot afford one poor recruiting class without paying a price.

It brings to memory a humorous line by Jack Nicholson in the first Batman movie. With his goon's revolver pointed squarely at an adversary, he said, "Better be sure. See? You can make a good decision-when you try."

In 2003, with the demand by alums for immediate success at an all-time high, there are plenty of D-I coaches feel that same revolver pointed squarely at them. And they'd better make the right decisions.

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