Never underestimate the SEC's power to get what it wants, even at the expense of prospective college football players.
The NCAA has banned satellite camps, the much-talked-about joint camps in which coaches like Penn State's James Franklin and, especially, Michigan's Jim Harbaugh ruffled SEC feathers by showing up to work at football camps in the South.
According to the NCAA's release on Friday, the Division I Council:
"… approved a proposal applicable to the Football Bowl Subdivision that would require those schools to conduct camps and clinics at their school's facilities or at facilities regularly used for practice or competition. Additionally, FBS coaches and noncoaching staff members with responsibilities specific to football may be employed only at their school's camps or clinics. This rule change is effective immediately."
While the issue has been most associated with the battle of the Big Ten vs. the SEC, the Big Ten was actually the only Power Five conference to vote in favor of satellite camps, according to ESPN's Brett McMurphy.
Source told @ESPN conferences that voted against satellite camps: ACC, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12, MWC, Sun Belt. In favor: B1G, AAC, C-USA, MAC— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) April 8, 2016
Upon becoming the coach at Penn State, Franklin took the Penn State staff to work a camp with Georgia State in Atlanta, and they have also participated at camps with Stetson (DeLand, Fla.) and Old Dominion (Norfolk, Va.), among others. Franklin previously was head coach at Vanderbilt in the SEC, which has a rule outlawing satellite camps. It did not take long for the SEC's coaches to fight back and try to prevent Big Ten coaches like Franklin from doing this.
Not surprisingly, Harbaugh aggressively pursued satellite camps upon last offseason upon taking the job at Michigan, with the Wolverines staff working camps with Prattville High School in Alabama and many more schools, with several more scheduled for this summer.
They're not the first ones to do it, as Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State have worked in Texas and, while at Rutgers, Greg Schiano took the staff to Florida. The NCAA outlawed coaching staffs hosting camps more than 50 miles away from campus, but it left a loophole for coaches like Harbaugh and Franklin to act as "visitors."
Now, that loophole is closed, effectively immediately.
The camps have made a lot of sense for Big Ten coaches, especially. The most fertile recruiting grounds are in Florida, Texas and California, with southern states like Georgia also in that mix. The Big Ten is the only one of the Power Five conferences that doesn't have a school located in one of those states. The decline in top-tier prep talent in the Midwest has been well-chronicled in recent years, with the SEC especially owning a home-field recruiting advantage because of the wealth of prep talent available in the Gulf Coast area.
By going to Georgia, Alabama, Florida and other states, coaches like Harbaugh and Franklin could makes headlines, meet possible prospects and make their presence felt in key recruiting areas. It's especially helpful because recruits are allowed only five official visits to campus -- visits paid for by those universities -- and it can be difficult to travel to schools a significant distance away from home.
The benefits were numerous: High school players could gain exposure to major university coaching staffs that they might not otherwise be able to get, and mid-major schools can work with staffs of more prominent programs. Only a small number of attendees at these camps might be worthy of FBS scholarships, but the camps were mutually beneficial arrangements.
Disappointed to read satellite camp news-better solutions than a ban- will hurt PSA's & Group of 5 schools. pic.twitter.com/fhmEDnn2ve- Pat Fitzgerald (@coachfitz51) April 8, 2016
That is, except for the SEC, ACC and anyone else trying to defend their prime recruiting territories (mostly, schools in Texas and California) from aggressive intruders. The SEC and ACC had their own bans on satellite camps, not wanting to turns their coaching against each other. If the NCAA did not ban the practice nation-wide, the SEC was prepared to remove its ban, allowing coaches like Nick Saban to do as they pleased.
Now, the SEC won't have to. In this case, satellite camps disproportionately benefit schools like Michigan and Penn State, who would like to create better access to those rich recruiting areas that the SEC already has.
"In my America, you're allowed to cross the state borders," Jim Harbaugh told USA Today last year, a line that he has repeated many times since. "That's the America I know."
The issue was always overblown, with SEC and ACC coaches just trying to protect themselves and avoid adding even more recruiting to an already full calendar. Harbaugh, of course, will continue to find ways to make headlines, as he already found another way to travel outside of Michigan by taking the Wolverines to IMG Academy in Florida for a week of spring practice.
The debate about satellite camps is finished, though, and while the SEC and ACC won and the Big Ten and schools like Old Dominion lost, the biggest losers in the situation, caught in the middle as usual, are the perspective football players who benefited from the camps by getting greater access and exposure to major universities.