By: Joel Robinson
Who’s that guy in the Allen Iverson jersey?
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and his traveling circus of football camps, ranging from Alabama to Australia have been causing plenty of controversy in the college football world. These satellite camps allow coaches from the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 to go around the globe and introduce their programs to elite high school talents.
The problem: There’s a major loophole in the NCAA’s ruling against satellite camps. Coaches can’t host camps outside of a 50-mile radius of their school.
So how is Harbaugh allowed to do what he’s doing?
He’s not hosting the camps.
Harbaugh, who has been showing up to these camps wearing the jerseys of local sports heroes in effort to connect with the kids of the area, is simply traveling to these various camps and helping out. According to the Big Ten, this is perfectly legal, but most other conferences do not allow their coaches to help or host camps outside of the 50-mile radius.
This leaves coaches like Alabama’s Nick Saban and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn helpless when Harbaugh is helping at a camp in the state of Alabama, just outside each coach’s respective radii.
Saban has been the loudest voice in resistance to Harbaugh’s tactics, saying, “It’s bad for college football,” at the SEC spring meetings. Saban also said, “This is the wild, wild West at its best. There have been no specific guidelines relative to how we’re managing control of this stuff.”
Of course, it did not take long for Harbaugh to fire back at Saban by highlighting the allegations of recruiting violations by the Crimson Tide and basically calling him a hypocrite.
The cold war that has been brewing over the subject of satellite camps since Harbaugh’s epic shirtless performance in Prattville, Alabama, last summer has finally seen an opening of fire.
The lines have been clearly drawn. There’s no turning back.
University of Georgia tight end Jeb Blazevich is for satellite camps.
“At the end of the day, if a student-athlete is just paying to get coached, I think that’s exactly what it needs to be,” he said. “Like, these kids that can’t travel all across the country to get coached by who they want to get coached by, I think it’s a great thing in terms of accessibility.
“I think it’s a good idea. I think it’s tough for recruiting. I think it’s a lot more work for those guys, but in the same sense it’s great for them. I think it’s great for Georgia”
When asked if coaches like Nick Saban were overreacting to the camps, Blazevich responded, “I would say, all you’re (referring to satellite camp coaches) doing is informing these players of another option…I think the more informed they are, the better it is for them as a person.”
Some of the campers here at the Grady Games share the opinion that satellite camps are just fine.
“The camps open options for the kids. It lets them see that there are places outside of their area that are just as good if not better,” LeyLani Clemmons said.
Tori Vincent agreed that the camps are good for the kids, but added, “It is not beneficial for the coaches.”
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy’s camps take place across Texas and will have coaches from the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12.
While most Big Ten coaches are fully in favor of the satellite camps, Rutgers head coach Chris Ash is much against them and has sided with Saban. He is upset about Harbaugh coming into New Jersey and helping at a camp at Paramus Catholic, home of the premier high school football team in the state. Ash believes that the camps take coaches away from their own program and hurts relationships with players and their development.
He held a camp on the same day as Harbaugh at Fairleigh Dickinson University at Madison (NJ) with guest coaches Urban Meyer and Greg Schiano. The Rutgers faithful did not take kindly to Harbaugh. Someone even left him a letter on the Paramus Catholic field telling him to go home.
Are the satellite camps ingenious or unfair? That answer is hotly debated and will continue to be debated as long as Harbaugh parades around the globe.
Harbaugh’s traveling circus is just beginning. So I suggest you put your seat belts on, folks. This summer is going to be a long one, and we’re in for a bumpy ride.