The Season of Satellite Camps
Satellite camps haven’t dominated the college football news cycle this spring, but that didn’t keep people from talking about Michigan since they were abroad for a week-long trip in Rome. With June upon us, we figured it was worth taking a deeper look at one of college football’s newest practice - a practice that’s been more limited, but not abolished by the NCAA.
Maize N Brew caught up with the following special guest panel for this roundtable:
Tom Luginbill, ESPN National Recruiting Director
Rachel Lenzi, Reporter with Land of 10 covering Michigan Football
Chris Childers, Host of Full Ride on Sirius XM College Sports Nation Channel 84
We asked our three guests to give us an informed and objective perspective on something that Michigan die-hards have supported vigorously. Here are their thoughts.
1. What are your overall thoughts on satellite camps? What about how Michigan's staff is involved in several around the country next month?
Tom: “I think they are beneficial for all involved on a limited basis. They need to occur in a small window so I like the new rule (of 10 days of camps instead of 30). You don't want to burnout coaches and kids the entire off-season. As it relates to Michigan or any other staff, getting eyes on kids in person as much as possible is critical to the evaluation process with the hopes of minimizing errors is very, very important.”
Rachel: “Satellite camps are a good thing – any exposure at and from these types of camps is good, whether it’s for the players or for the coaches or for the programs.
“Satellite camps have always been in existence, but we saw the tipping point in the last two years with Penn State, which started the trend in 2014 when James Franklin used it as a recruiting tool of sorts, and then continued with Michigan, which took its participation in satellite camps to a whole new level, to the point that it brought about NCAA legislation to restrict coaching attendance and participation in satellite camps. Basically, we wouldn’t be having this conversation if it wasn’t for Michigan taking satellite camps to the Nth degree.
“Michigan’s upcoming satellite camp schedule is a strong geographic mix, and a mix of small schools (University of the Incarnate Word, for example, and Mercer University) and Division I schools.”
Chris: “I think they’re good, I really think they’re beneficial for the student-athlete, but also for the schools as well. The more exposure you can get as a student-athlete the better.
“Not everyone is going to be that guaranteed five-star or high four-star that gets an offer from everyone. There are a lot of good high three-star kids that need the right eye balls on them to give them the right opportunity and think satellite camps have done that. I think the growth of them over the last few years under Jim Harbaugh has done a lot of good for a lot of student-athletes. At the end of the day, I know there’s controversy to it, and I get protecting your own territory like a lot of schools are doing in the SEC, but I think they’re very beneficial for the student-athletes.”
Chris: “Jim Harbaugh has proven that camps can be a highly effective thing. If you look at the way he changed the culture at Michigan fast, I think camps and getting that brand out there around the country has helped rebuild their brand. It was broken there before under Rich Rod and Brady Hoke.
“What Jim Harbaugh has done to get Michigan back in the daily conversation has fixed things a lot faster than anyone thought possible. There’s no brand that’s stronger when it’s going well, we all understand the winged helmets-maize and blue and when everything is clicking at the same time. I think Jim Harbaugh is doing that and he’s doing it very quickly, and I think satellite camps are a big reason for that.”
2. What do you see the future of camps being and will there be more/less?
Tom: “I think it will stay the way it is now until the process or environment forces tweaks to be made. Early summer is the best time frame. Then give the kids a break.”
Rachel: “If the NCAA is smart, there won’t be any more changes to the number of satellite camps. There was enough of an uproar last year in cancelling the camps outright, and an uproar remained, though not as resounding, when the camps returned to the table, but in a very different format — football programs can only have staff at 10 days of camps in June and July.”
Chris: “I wish they would just have assigned camps and everyone can sign up if they want to do them for those 10 days around the country. We wouldn’t have to protect territories and every school is set with an equal chance to be visible and that benefits the kids in the end with no angle available by the schools. The players can get purely evaluated by a lot of people to find good recruits.”
3. Do you see camps benefiting the lower recruited players and schools/coaches who host them with having several colleges involved?
Tom: “YES! In my opinion, the true value of satellite camps is for those kids who are not high profile and programs at the G5 or FCS/DII level. Those are the kids and programs who benefit most. I think it gives those kids opportunities they hadn't had before which is the most important thing in this process -- opportunity to display your abilities in front of coaches who actually make the decisions.”
Rachel: “Opportunities for exposure and recruiting have greatly diminished (this year), but not for the coaches and staffs — instead, it’s affecting the high school athletes. Look at what has happened to Sound Mind, Sound Body, which was a showcase camp in the last few years attended not only by coaches of Power Five programs but also Group of Five programs and even smaller programs. The biggest knock against placing restrictions on satellite camps (including no longer hosting them at off-campus sites — SMSB was based at Wayne State University in Detroit) was that it cut off access for potential college football players.”
Chris: “Yes, I think if it’s done the right way with no third parties with guys trying to make a quick buck, and that’s been eliminated, everyone comes out on the right end.”
4. See any disadvantages with the latest changes/restrictions approved by the NCAA?
Tom: “I think they are healthy tweaks. Coaches and kids don't need to be overloaded more than they already are in the off-season.”
Rachel: “The biggest disadvantage is that there are fewer opportunities for coaches and staffs to mine for prospective recruits, but let’s be honest — not many programs have the resources, the energy or the finances to replicate what Michigan did last year in sending coaches to camps across the country and in Australia. (Compare the football operating budgets for a Big Ten school to a MAC school.)
“But recruiting isn’t a discipline that takes place solely in June or at a satellite camp. Recruiting is a year-round endeavor that requires creativity, and even with the NCAA’s changes and restrictions, some resourceful coach — maybe Jim Harbaugh, maybe someone else — will find another loophole that will continue the evolution of recruiting.”
Chris: “Yes, for the most part, but when you only have 10 days, I’m not sure if they would spend part of that in places like Australia or outside of the country like he’s done. You never know down the road because the whole dynamic for special teams talent there is a real thing. I think we all understand the importance of having quality guys in special teams. Having all those Aussie dudes who can really kick the football and many are getting scholarship who may not make it in their sport, and it could give you first crack at the best ones. For Jim Harbaugh, it leaves no stone unturned and I think its a no-brainer.”
This topic may have gotten little to no attention until the past few years, but I think it’s clear that satellite camps will be an ongoing debate as the sport figures out the right ways to regulate and support student-athletes.
Our huge thanks to Tom, Rachel, and Chris for giving us their time and the benefit of an informed outsider’s perspective. Follow them all on Twitter here, here, and here.