This week the NCAA reversed itself by repealing its ban on satellite camps when it comes to college football. From what I gather, it is basically a tiff between northern schools in the Big Ten trying to establish a foothold in fertile recruiting grounds outside of their usual footprint. I say that because it is something that makes Jim Harbaugh quite aroused, all while pissing off almost all of the SEC. this is big news because Purdue, as a Big Ten school, has already held a satellite camp once and they are likely to do so in the future.
First, let's learn a little bit.
What Are Satellite Camps?
Basically, they are places where coaches can conduct high school skills camps outside of the normal 50 mile radius of campus. Every summer Purdue has various skills camps on campus, but now you can conduct them pretty much anywhere. Last season Penn State's coaches were instructors at Stetson and Georgia State, while the Michigan coaching staff is going on a seven-state, nine-camp tour.
It is all done in the name of recruiting, which already has so many restrictions and loopholes that it is impossible to keep them straight. Basically, coaches can now go out and conduct camps and evaluations en masse near the homes of recruits instead of bringing them to campus.
So Why is the SEC pissed?
Basically, their own conference rules, along with the ACC, prevent coaches from attending camps as invited guests if they are held outside of a 50 mile radius from their campuses. The Big Ten has no such rule. A recent ESPN article points out that Prattville, Alabama hosts a camp as a local high school powerhouse. Nick Saban cannot attend because Tuscaloosa is 90 miles away, but Urban Meyer of Jim Harbaugh can be "invited guests" just fine.
This opens the door for a number of Big Ten schools to head south and set up camps hosted by other institutions. If Purdue wants to go in on a camp at Gulliver Prep High School in Miami, just a few miles from the U, it now can.
But Wait, Have We Done this Before?
Purdue has already been in on it! Last summer Darrell Hazell and company were part of a satellite camp in Nashville that involved about 250 athletes. For $30 each the kids went through individual drills and were evaluated by the coaching staff. It led to the commitment of Nate Johnson, a 5'11" wide receiver that eventually de-committed and signed with Michigan. If the conference commissioners are able to get a football early signing day (much like basketball currently has) there is the potential that these camps can lead to earlier signings and less commitment flips before National Signing Day in February.
Will Purdue Participate in the Future?
It is pretty much going to have to. Regardless of what Mitch Daniels wishes, we're in an arms race and satellite camps are another part of it. Purdue already had plans to go to Wisconsin, Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit this summer for camps before the short-lived ban was in place. Now that they are legal again the Boilers will almost certainly be involved in several of them this summer mostly out of necessity.
Our friends at maize N' Brew had an excellent breakdown of how satellite camps could actually be financially beneficial for frugal programs like our own:
Satellite camps aren't necessarily expensive, compared to many of the other things football teams spend money on. Last year's Summer Swarm tour cost Michigan $211,948, according to the Detroit Free Press, and that included stops in Alabama, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Indiana, and California. Almost 94% of the costs came on airfare alone, and it's worth noting that Michigan took numerous assistants and staffers. Michigan held 10 camps total.
The other major player in the satellite camp circuit, Penn State, has declined to say how much their camps have cost, but there has been a dramatic increase in their recruiting spending the last few years. In 2011, the program spent approximately $250,000 on recruiting. In 2014, it was $1,391,332.
Much of the cost of recruiting, however, seems to be tied up to the cost of flying, even more than the potential costs of a recruiting staff. For this and many other reasons, satellite camps will not change the fact that recruiting is built on doing well in local areas, and that is particularly true for poorer programs. But even for teams like Purdue, local recruiting could become regional recruiting at a fraction of the cost Michigan has spent.
Let's go back to the $21,000 figure Michigan spent for each of its ten satellite camps, and look at how a team like Purdue could minimize some of that cost. If the program focused on areas within a 500-mile radius, Purdue could recruit heavily in Kentucky and Tennessee while relying on buses for equipment needs and scrapping private charters for first-class tickets. Exact numbers are impossible to find, but sending assistants on public flights can save as much as twenty times the cost.
Wait, You Mean We Can SAVE Money?
That's at least what it looks like here. I doubt Purdue will be setting up a camp in South Florida a lot like Danny Hope would want to, but the camp in Nashville last season was within easy driving distance and it appears Purdue wants to stay centered in Big Ten country for now. In the future, however, Purdue is going to need to look south. While Hope was vilified by many for his game day decisions, he was a good recruiter.His strategy of looking for Florida guys, a state with a high concentration of D1 talent, was a sound one, and it yielded far better classes than what Hazell has put together. Hold a camp down there and who knows what a benefit it could be. With only a handful of FBS level players in Indiana every year for three major schools Purdue has to do SOMETHING different, so this could be beneficial.