- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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The SEC football coaches, proud purveyors of oversigning and other honorable recruiting practices, have banded together in the name of integrity. Take a bow, (good ol') boys. You deserve it.
Apparently the SEC coaches aren't too pleased with a plan hatched by one of their former colleagues, James Franklin. The new Penn State coach, formerly at Vanderbilt, and his assistants will guest coach next month at summer camps in the heart of SEC country, at Georgia State and Stetson. It means the Penn State staff can evaluate prospects from in and around Atlanta and DeLand, Fla., two SEC recruiting hotbeds.
Although NCAA rules limit programs from running high school camps more than 50 miles from their campus, coaches are allowed to work at camps outside of the radius as long as they don't run the events.
"The Big Ten and NCAA rules allow you to do these things," Franklin recently told reporters during a Coaches Caravan stop in King of Prussia, Pa. "We wanted to not only have camps on our campus, which we're going to have a bunch of them, but also be able to maybe take the Penn State brand and be able to take it to part of the country that maybe young men and families wouldn't be able to make it to our place, take it to them.
"And I'm fired up about it."
But Franklin's former SEC brethren aren't fired up. Unlike the morally reprehensible Big Ten, the SEC prohibits coaches from working at camps beyond 50 miles from campus. Again, it's all about integrity in that league.
So SEC coaches have complained to their commissioner, Mike Slive, to step in and try to stop Franklin and his attempt to enter their sacred ground.
"It's that kind of thing that gets us to think about our rules," Slive said. "They [SEC coaches] like our rule; they don't like the so-called satellite camps. They see it as a loophole and asked us to see what we can do about that."
Slive said the SEC would have to approach the NCAA about closing the loophole.
You go and do that, Commissioner Slive. March yourself to Indianapolis. By golly, someone needs to stand up for doing things the right way. And if the NCAA asks about oversigning, just show them your championship rings. So sparkly!
The truth is other programs are capitalizing on the same loophole. As colleagues Brett McMurphy and Edward Aschoff report, coaches from Oklahoma State and New Mexico plan to work several camps in Texas this summer. While Florida and Georgia are among the highest-producing states for FBS prospects, Texas tops the list.
So Franklin isn't the only one. But his plan to extend the recruiting reach for a Penn State program that has largely ignored the fertile South in recent years is brilliant. Everyone asks me how the Big Ten can close the gap with the SEC. The answer is to spend more time in its territory.
"This thing that James Franklin did with Georgia State, that’s a stroke of genius," Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo, a former coach at LSU and Vanderbilt, told me. "If Penn State continues to do that, and other Big Ten schools continue to have an agreement with these smaller Southern schools and you can officially visit a prospect in May and June, it will be the most significant move in favor of Big Ten football in my lifetime."
Just wait until more Big Ten coaches begin stumping for earlier official visits, which would help their cause tremendously. Michigan's Brady Hoke is on board. So are many others in the league.
It'll be fun to see how the SEC reacts to that campaign.
Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork offered this gem at SEC spring meetings when asked about Franklin's summer Southern migration. By the way, arguably no SEC program has a more storied oversigning tradition than Ole Miss.
"That's our backyard, so anytime those things happen, your eyes and ears perk up to say, What do we need to address [the issue] if that's a hindrance?" Bjork said. "If it's a competitive disadvantage, then we need to look at it."
Competitive disadvantage! Sound the alarms! The Big Ten is gonna get us!
To quote the other Björk:
You're all right
There's nothing wrong
And get to work
And if you complain once more
You'll meet an army of me
The SEC should stop complaining about, of all things, a potential challenge to its recruiting hegemony. Better yet, it should change its policy and come on up to Big Ten country. Nick Saban loves Ohio. Les Miles is a Michigan guy. Kevin Sumlin went to Purdue.
How could Division III power Wisconsin-Whitewater turn down a chance to bring back favorite son Bret Bielema to America's dairyland?
But maybe it's better that the SEC coaches dig in on this issue. Remember, they're all about fairness and honor in recruiting.
And 37-man recruiting classes.