Jim Harbaugh and his Michigan sweater are expected to swing into Tampa at some point this June for a satellite camp right in the backyard of the Florida Gators.
To some coaches, like Auburn’s Gus Malzahn – who is dealing with a similar Harbaugh satellite camp just 74 miles from his campus – this is a huge deal. To Florida head coach Jim McElwain, who is similarly not pleased to have to deal with the in-state competition from Michigan, it is just an example of recruiting rules being uneven across the country.
“I wish they weren’t [coming down here], absolutely, 100 percent,” he said Wednesday, “and yet, I don’t blame them. There’s nothing we can do about it until we change our rule as an SEC group or actually create something on the NCAA level where we’re all on the same [level]. It’s like with any of the rules, as long as everybody is playing on the same field, you just go deal with it right. I kind of wish we’d knock it off, but more power to them.”
NCAA rules do not permit a program to run a football camp out of state more than 50 miles from its campus; however, the NCAA does not have language that disallows coaches from serving as guest instructors at camps outside that area, creating a loophole.
The Big Ten also does not have such a rule in place, which is why Penn State’s James Franklin disturbed many outside of his conference by working at such a camp in Atlanta – home of Georgia Tech, a fertile recruiting ground for Georgia – last offseason.
One of those parties perturbed by Franklin’s appearance? Southeastern Conference coaches, of course, as they currently have to abide by a league rule that prohibits them from even serving as guest instructors at such camps. As such, the Big Ten can invade SEC territory, but SEC teams cannot put a footprint in any state that falls outside that 50-mile radius.
While McElwain is in favor of a rule at the NCAA level to prevent these guest appearances from out-of-town coaches at camps run by smaller colleges, he may be more pleased by the SEC simply relaxing its restrictions. From his experience at Colorado State, he believes satellite camps can be beneficial to programs, coaches and recruits.
“We actually did that a little bit at Colorado State, and it helped immensely our ability to take our brand to someone else. It was hard to get the guys to come on campus and get here [and at Colorado State] we had to make a big push for it because that’s a huge part of recruiting,” he said.
“As much as it is an evaluation for the coach, which is a great tool, I look at it for the prospect to be able to get around us and say, ‘That’s a guy I’d like to be coached by,’ or ‘Maybe I don’t quite fit that.’ I really look at it: it is as much for the player to be able to get exposed to what it would be like to be there. It’s a great advantage.”
For now though, McElwain refused to complain about the rules as they stand. Instead, he is just focused on doing the best job he can recruiting for the Gators.
“It’s just the way the rules are written, we [at Florida] are not able to, so we’ve got to do a great job of getting the guys up here so they can get around us.”