College Confidential

SEC football coaches should start packing for sleepover camps

Jim Harbaugh worked with players at Grand Prairie High School last June when his camp stopped in the Metroplex.
Jim Harbaugh worked with players at Grand Prairie High School last June when his camp stopped in the Metroplex. Special to the Star-Telegram

Satellite camps aren’t exactly new in college football recruiting, but they were mostly under the radar, and schools that used them didn’t do many of them.

Then came Michigan coach and national antagonist Jim Harbaugh, who last summer raised the stakes considerably when he put into action his highly strategic “Summer Swarm” through SEC country, including a stop at Grand Prairie High School. And, my oh my, how Harbaugh hopscotching from one high school football camp to another via chartered jet throughout the Deep South rankled SEC coaches (just one example), obviously the rightful harvesters of the planet’s richest recruiting fields.

Well, at airports across the southern United States in and near towns where SEC schools can be found, booster-funded Cessnas are being fueled up for the SEC’s venture into Harbaugh’s wild, wild world of satellite camps.

So what is a satellite camp? It is a football camp put on at a high school in some part of the country, say, Prattville, Ala., or Pearl, Miss., or Atlanta or Dallas or Houston, and attended typically by several hundred high school football players. A major college football coach like Harbaugh and his staff are invited to participate as “guest coaches.” Might as well be called Camp Michigan in Prattville.

The ACC and SEC do not allow its coaches to participate in satellite camps. But that’s about to change in a big way.

At the ongoing NCAA Division I council meetings in Indianapolis, a vote will be held on SEC legislation proposed last May that would eliminate coaches from traveling to camps beyond their campuses. If the legislation is voted down, as seems to be expected, satellite camps are going to become as synonymous with college football as tailgating.

Some, if not all, SEC programs are reconfiguring their summer travel budgets (last year Michigan spent $211,948 on the tour from June 4-12, according to the Detroit Free Press).

“Our commissioner (Greg Sankey) has spoken and said if it’s not revised or revoked, then we’re going to be able to do it,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin told ESPN.com’s Eric Crabtree this week. “I know there are a number of SEC programs that are set and ready to go if it happens. We will have satellite camps outside of the state. We’re ready to go. They’re already on the calendar. We’ve got some tentative dates and locations set, so that if things go a certain way, we can be prepared to go. We’re not the only SEC team that’s doing that, too.”

If SEC coaches are going to join Harbaugh with their own summer swarms, they should also follow him by going shirtless as Harbaugh did down there in Alabama.

Sumlin might not remove his shirt, but he will take a cue from Harbaugh and try to get deeper into SEC country, especially in New Orleans, perhaps Atlanta and Miami. Sumlin is already making inroads west and could hit Pac-12 country hard.

He’s recruited players from Arizona, including last season’s freshman All-American Christian Kirk, who hails from Scottsdale, and 2017 commit Tate Martell, the nation’s No. 1-ranked dual-threat QB, who is from Las Vegas. Sumlin could set up shop in Phoenix and Los Angeles.

If SEC coaches are given the green-light this week, expect Dallas-Fort Worth to become a hub for satellite camps. Harbaugh came through last summer and will again this summer. Why wouldn’t Alabama’s Nick Saban, LSU’s Les Miles, Arkansas’ Brett Beielema and Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze do the same?

If you thought college football recruiting was already a wild and ruthless business, you haven’t seen nothin’ yet.

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