Sunday, February 25, 2018
Sports

NCAA caves in to SEC on satellite camps

Jim Harbaugh finally got beat by the SEC — the ACC, too, if you want to get technical.

Both conferences asked the NCAA to ban schools from holding summer football camps outside their primary stadiums and practice facilities. The NCAA agreed and announced the new restrictions Friday.

The NCAA caved to the new establishment that doesn't care about a level playing field.

Call it the Harbaugh Rule.

Harbaugh has dominated so many news cycles the past year that it's easy to forget what the original issue was here.

So let me recap:

College football programs hold summer camps at their stadiums or nearby practice facilities and invite potential recruits. It's a way for coaches to look at a lot of players in a short time period.

Programs often find under-the-radar players this way; kids who play in the region and just haven't gotten as much notice for whatever reason. But these camps are generally limited by geography.

By taking them on the road, however, coaches can parade the program to talent-rich regions and discover even more recruits. Or so the theory went when Harbaugh organized a nine-stop tour last summer that hit several spots in the South — the most fertile recruiting territory in the country.

SEC administrators and coaches balked immediately, prompting public remarks from Alabama coach Nick Saban, among others.

They wanted to protect their turf.

Harbaugh wanted to roll tanks over it. It's hard to blame him, because no sport is more inequitable than college football.

Schools are at the mercy of their birthplace. And its boosters. The combination of demographics and money tilts the playing field toward the few.

Sound familiar?

Not that we need to feel sorry for Michigan — few schools enjoy such outsized endowments. Still, the state of Michigan isn't bursting with top-shelf talent at the moment. Alabama, Texas and Florida are. That puts the Wolverines at a disadvantage.

So Harbaugh took his coaching staff to those places last summer and invited dozens of prospects for a look. He planned on doing it again this summer, on an expanded tour.

Now he can't, unless the Big Ten and another geographically challenged conference fight back. Even then, it might not be enough. The SEC and ACC have dominated the sport the past 15 years.

And while the Big Ten is finally finding its footing again among the sport's upper echelon, the power of the sport apparently still rests outside the region, in almost every way.

Why else would the NCAA ban schools from holding camps wherever it wanted in the summer?

This certainly has nothing to do with student welfare. It has everything to do with the status quo and protecting a system that has been unbalanced for decades.

Credit the SEC and the ACC for winning this round.

But don't expect the Harbaugh push south — and west — to stop. This sport doesn't have a draft, or a system that redistributes the talent every year based on a team's performance.

It has demographics and a trail of money.

The NCAA reminded us Friday that it has no intention of changing that.

At least for now.

— Detroit Free Press (TNS)

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