By Eric Olson
AP College Football Writer
The NCAA Division I Board of Directors scrapped a proposed ban on satellite camps Thursday, rebuffing a request from powerhouse conferences in the South and clearing the way for coaches to hold and work at clinics far from their campuses this summer.
The decision won’t end the debate that centered on whether the camps are just another recruiting tool: The board also asked the Division I Council to conduct a broad assessment of the entire college football recruiting model in coming months, and that could bring modifications to how the camps are run and who can take part.
The council approved a ban three weeks ago prohibiting Bowl Subdivision coaches from holding or working at camps and clinics away from their schools. The camps had drawn a high profile after Jim Harbaugh and his Michigan staff held camps in the South last summer and he was among the first to praise the board’s decision.
“Good news,” Harbaugh said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “It’s good for prospective student-athletes, fans, coaches and competition.”
The Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference sponsored the proposal that created the ban, but there was an outcry from coaches who contend satellite camps provide opportunities for un-recruited athletes to be noticed by high-profile coaches and possibly receive scholarships.
“While we are disappointed with the NCAA governance process result, we respect the Board of Directors’ decision and are confident SEC football programs will continue to be highly effective in their recruiting efforts,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said.
The SEC had warned it would lift its ban on satellite camp participation without an NCAA-wide prohibition. The SEC and ACC both said their coaches will now be allowed to participate in the camps.
“We continue to believe football recruiting is primarily an activity best focused in high schools during the established recruiting calendar, which has provided opportunities for football prospective student-athletes from all across the country to obtain broad national access and exposure but with appropriate guidance from high school coaches, teachers and advisers,” Sankey said.
The board also directed the council to take a deeper look at FBS recruiting, with initial recommendations due by Sept. 1.
“The Board of Directors is interested in a holistic review of the football recruiting environment, and camps are a piece of that puzzle,” said Chairman Harris Pastides, president of the University of South Carolina. “We share the council’s interest in improving the camp environment, and we support the council’s efforts to create a model that emphasizes the scholastic environment as an appropriate place for recruiting future student-athletes.”
Opponents of the camps say they are simply recruiting events held outside the official recruiting calendar and the sight of a Big Ten coach like Harbaugh drawing attention in SEC country with his Florida camps helped put the issue on the front burner for the NCAA.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 had expected the camp issue to be dealt with as part of a comprehensive overhaul of recruiting, but the SEC and ACC compelled the council to act on the camps alone. The Big Ten turned out to be the only Power Five conference in the D-I Council to oppose the ban when the vote was taken April 8.
The Big 12 and Pac-12 joined the SEC and ACC in voting for the ban, even though a significant number of coaches within those conferences favored satellite camps. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott later said the conference’s representative did not vote the league’s position in backing the ban.
“We are pleased with today’s decision by the NCAA Board to rescind the ban on satellite camps and ask the Division I Council to review the situation more broadly,” Scott said Thursday. “This is the outcome our conference preferred, and we now look forward to working with the council to develop a more thoughtful and comprehensive approach to addressing football recruiting.”
Earlier this week, Washington State coach Mike Leach said he had hoped the camps would be allowed and give athletes a chance to be seen by more coaches.
“The only reason that they could possibly be against satellite camps is for some selfish motivation of locking other schools out of the opportunity to see their players,” he said. “If we’re going to be a national sport, recruiting and recruiting opportunity need to be on a national scale as well.”
Council Chairman Jim Phillips, a board member and athletic director at Northwestern, said the board’s directives will give the council an opportunity to look at recruiting in a more thorough way.
“It’s clear that the membership has differing views on this subject,” Phillips said. “This review will provide an opportunity to identify the most effective ways prospective student-athletes can have their academic and athletic credentials evaluated by schools across the country.”