- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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DESTIN, Fla. -- Despite the SEC's recent stranglehold on the college football world, the conference -- dubbed by many to be the best in the sport for the better part of the last decade -- can't seem to wrap its head around satellite camps.
Infamous in the Deep South and extremely resourceful (and legal) to just about everyone else in the country, satellite camps have become enemy No. 1 to the big, bad SEC. For the second straight year, SEC coaches and administrators are sick and tired of watching other competing coaches slide into their fertile recruiting grounds and spend precious time with prospective recruits by playing "guest coach" at smaller institutions.
NCAA rules allow football programs to hold camps on campus, inside their state or within a 50-mile radius of their school, but there's a nifty little loophole that allows coaches to "guest-coach" at another school's camp anywhere in the country.
Penn State coach James Franklin upset the SEC by doing it last year, while Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is hitting nine cities in nine days that will include trips to Alabama, Florida and Texas. Ohio State's Urban Meyer is heading to Boca Raton, Florida, in June.
The SEC, which along with the ACC doesn't allow its coaches to participate in these camps, is now proposing legislation to have satellite camps outlawed nationally, and many coaches believe that these camps present an unfair competitive advantage that the league can't combat.
The SEC's groaning on the subject has fallen on deaf ears, but that didn't stop the league from griping about it again on Tuesday.
"We have a lot of crazy rules," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "A head coach is not allowed to go out during an evaluation period in the spring, but he can go have a satellite camp anywhere in the country to bring your staff in and bring players to it? Does that make any sense to anybody? I think we should have recruiting periods and evaluation periods, and the only time you should be able to have a camp is on your campus. And if a player is interested enough to come to your camp on your campus, then that should be the way it is."
What the SEC has to realize is that it just doesn't have enough votes to destroy this practice. Greg Sankey, who will replace Mike Slive as SEC commissioner in July, said he thinks the SEC's proposal has a "fair chance of passing."
That might be wishful thinking. So the SEC needs a Plan B, and that plan should be to conform and let the issue die. The SEC is talking about a competitive disadvantage, more time on the road and a longer recruiting season, but if you can't beat them, you might as well join them.
We all know what these camps are. They aren't development opportunities, they are recruiting ventures. They are loopholes when the official recruiting calendar shuts down. If it bothers the SEC and their proposal is shot down, join the club.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze isn't a fan of satellite camps, but even he said he would reevaluate his stance on them if SEC coaches were allowed to participate.
"I guess it's a selfish position somewhat, and I kinda like it the way it is for us. But I totally understand if I were sitting somewhere and in my recruiting circle there are camps going on from outside schools, in the Power 5 in particular, I would want the freedom to do the same," Freeze said.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier also understands that evolution is inevitable.
"All of us are against it, obviously, but there comes a point where we all need to start doing it to keep up with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State -- the Northern schools that come into the South," he said.
I completely understand the SEC's stance. Coaches and administrators don't want outsiders stepping into their footprints, and they don't want to watch conference mates hanging out in their backyards any more than they already do.
Florida probably doesn't want Alabama in Jacksonville. Texas A&M probably doesn't want Georgia in Dallas. None of them want Ohio State or Michigan anywhere close to them. But the time is coming when the SEC, which showed a total competitive disadvantage with its seven straight national championships, needs to back off and either join the fun or leave the fight.
I'm sure Florida would like to hit Miami and Atlanta. Saban probably wouldn't mind a day in Dallas, either.
Georgia coach Mark Richt seemed a little apathetic about satellite camps and probably understood better than everyone that sometimes you have to embrace change.
"I'm not too worried about it," he said. "If we're allowed to, I'm sure we will."
And they should. Give prospects the opportunity to see you when they might not be able to afford the chance later. The rest of the sport is slowly catching up to the SEC, and the league, which has been revolutionary at times, can't get caught with its head in the sand.
Cost-of-attendance still a discussion
The SEC was -- and is -- in favor of cost-of-attendance for its student-athletes, but as estimated numbers began trickling out for universities, coaches started to get a little skittish about some sort of competitive advantage some schools could get with higher projections.
Remember, these costs will be for costs outside of tuition, room and board, books and fees. Each university's financial aid office will calculate the costs and report them to the federal government, so the numbers will be different across the board.
Coaches like Saban and Richt want more transparency (something Slive and Sankey both want) and equality with the numbers.
"I'm all for the players getting more. I always have been, I've always promoted it. I've always been for it," Saban said. "I still think that's important that we improve the quality of life. I just think there's some unforeseen consequences of this that may affect the competitive balance that we've always worked very hard to try to keep, relative to college."
Saban proposed something similar to a salary cap that's used in most professional sports.
Spurrier changed his tune with cost-of-attendance, saying that equality doesn't happen in many aspects of recruiting, and it probably shouldn't with finances.
"If one school can give $5,000 a year and another $4,000, hell, that's just the way it is," Spurrier said.
"Who knows the reason a young man picks a school, but we would hope four or five hundred dollars wouldn't be a reason a kid picks a school."
Saban and Richt were asked about the schools possibly paying for real costs, as opposed to the ambiguous costs projected by each school. Both seemed into it, but transparency of how the estimated numbers are created is what they were really concerned with.
"If everybody would disclose how they go about their business, I think it might be helpful to get things on a more equal playing field," Richt said.
"There's a lot of numbers out there that no one knows how they got to those numbers. It'd be nice to know how everybody gets to that number. If everybody's using the same grid, then maybe it'd be a little bit closer."
Despite the SEC's recent stranglehold on the college football world it can't seem to wrap its head around satellite camps.