For the past 23 years, Mike Tracy has choreographed the complex recruiting dance of trying to lure quality prospects to high-academic institutions in the lower tier of college football.
Tracy, the defensive coordinator at Hartwick College (N.Y.), gets a jump on the recruiting process by helping out at football camps in pockets of New England during the summer. He noticed players from recruiting hotbeds such as California, Florida and Texas kept showing up to the same camps.
"I started thinking about how great it would be if we hold a camp in Florida and have nothing but coaches from quality academic schools running the thing," Tracy said. "To me, it was such a great idea I wrote my entire master's thesis on it in sports management."
Three years ago, Tracy, along with former Miami Dolphins lineman Jeff Dellenbach, started the South Florida Select Football Clinic. The attendance has more than doubled since its debut, with 200 players attending the three-day camp — which cost $400 — held over the weekend at Boca Raton High School.
Coaches from every Ivy League school, as well as other high-academic institutions, were there to provide instruction.
"This is a camp that is open to anyone," Tracy said. "But it's not going to be as beneficial to a player with a 2.0 grade-point average. Too often, coaches are taking care of the players who are struggling in various ways, which is needed. But we sometimes forget about the top-end student-athletes because they seemingly have everything taken care of.
"But those kids are trying to find a place to play, too. This camp is kind of a smorgasbord where everyone's needs are met."
And the camp comes at a time when recruits are traveling the country to gain exposure.
Tracy said players came from as far as Canada. The Tampa Bay area was also represented, with three attending from East Lake — running back Drew Couto, quarterback Jake Hudson and defensive lineman Regis Steighner. All three have weighted GPAs of 4.0 or higher.
Steighner wants to go to a school that is not only competitive in football, but has an outstanding and well-deserved reputation for academics.
"I'd love to go to an Ivy League school, and it was great to see so many coaches from those schools at this camp," Steighner said. "There were others there, too. I talked to coaches from about 30 colleges this weekend."
Cambridge Christian quarterback Garrett Young, who has a 3.7 GPA, was on a whirlwind tour of colleges and attended the camp Sunday.
"If I was able to go to an Ivy League school or something equivalent, I'd be set for life," Young said. "But the thing is, I want to get as much exposure as possible and keep getting my name out there."