Bobby Bowden once said, “The thing that drives most coaches out of coaching college is they get tired of the grind of recruiting.” For better or worse recruiting trends often come and go in college football. However, the ability to successfully navigate these trends truly separates elite college football programs from the rest of the pack. The latest trend which started by a controversial rule change from the NCAA Board of Governors may unleash an opportunity for HBCU football programs to attract additional top talent.
On April 28th, 2016 the NCAA rescinded a long standing ban on satellite camps at the Division I level. By definition, satellite camps simply allow college coaches to travel long distances to work as guests for camps at other institutions. Supporters of these camps say they provide coaches with invaluable exposure to potential prospects who may not be familiar with their program offerings. University of Michigan coach, Jim Harbaugh may be the most visible supporter of the rule change. Harbaugh pounced on the trend orchestrating a satellite camp world tour with stops everywhere from Honolulu, Hawaii to Houston, Texas. Michigan football also made notable stops in Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Utah, and even AUSTRALIA! HBCU’s athletic departments do not have access to the same funds as programs like Michigan, but that hasn’t stopped them from jumping on this trend. This summer Head Coach James Spady and the Alabama A&M coaching staff went on a Harbaugh-esque tour. They held 6 total satellite camps; 5 of them coming in just four days. The group traveled to Montgomery, Baldwin County, Mobile, Dothan, and Birmingham. Coach Spady detailed the importance of satelitte camps for the local news. According to coach these camps are now vital to any program trying to be competitive.
As to be expected; not everyone is a fan of these camps. Alabama Coach Nick Saban and SEC Comissh Greg Sankey are perhaps two of the camp’s biggest opponents. Saban initially called the camps “ridiculous” and questioned if they had any value. Sankey took an even harder stance calling the camps recruiting tours and urging the NCAA to reinstate the bans.
For obvious reasons, I can see why a SEC coach wouldn’t want other programs recruiting in their back yard. In some ways Sankey is right. Satellite Camps may not be recruiting tours but they are recruiting tools. During these camps coaches can extend scholarship offers to players and players can establish a comfort level with coaching staffs. Believe it or not there is tons of untapped recruiting potential for HBCU’s both in their respective states and across the country. Plenty of student athletes are neither aware of the rich history of HBCU football; nor the high level of fan support. In fact, in 2015 7 of the top 20 best attended NCAA FCS programs were HBCU’s. Under the current rules you potentially you could see areas with high numbers of alums pool resources together to host camps in under recruited areas like Los Angeles, Chicago, or Detroit. Undoubtely getting camps up and running around the state and country will be hard. However the opportunity is to great to ignore. These camps expose kids to a world of opportunity many never knew existed and also genrate excitement while helping expand the HBCU brand. Two opportunities any great coach would seized. Whatever you do….Don’t be suprised if satellite camps sweep the SWAC.