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The SEC complains, but satellite camps are good for players

Southern coaches are upset that their recruiting territory's being invaded by power schools from other regions.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Satellite recruiting camps aren't the sudden scourge they've been portrayed as by SEC head coaches. They've been permissible by several conferences for years now.

But the incongruity among the rules of each power conference has led to a controversy. The ACC and SEC essentially forbid their coaches from holding player camps outside their immediate turf, while the Big Ten and other powers free their coaches to set up shop with small schools throughout the talent-rich South, meaning greater access to Southern prospects. Southern coaches are mad.

"I haven't really heard anything from coaches at schools that can't [conduct satellite camps], but to be totally honest, it wouldn't matter if they did say something," South Florida head coach Willie Taggart said.

Taggart will hold a camp in Tampa next week that will feature coaches from Jim Harbaugh's Michigan staff. Days earlier, SEC coaches issued their latest round of complaints about the practice, which is also being used by Nebraska, Ohio State, and Penn State.

"I know that they're being called satellite camps right now. They're just camps. We're holding a camp on our campus, and other coaches are coming in to help work it. It's not Michigan's camp. It's South Florida's camp. The coaches are coming to help kids work on fundamentals," Taggart said.

The connection with Michigan is natural. Taggart was an assistant under Harbaugh at Stanford and played for his father Jack at Western Kentucky. Both schools run similar offenses. Taggart said enrollment for USF's camp was already ahead of last year's, with more than 200 players pre-registered a week ago.

"It's a good deal for everybody," said Taggart.

"It allows coaches to share information and network. We're getting kids on our campus, which is huge. That's the most important thing for us."

Taggart has a broader perspective than most coaches. As a former all-state high school quarterback in Bradenton, Fla., he went through the national recruiting process in 1993. He bristles at the idea of fairness between schools and conferences.

"I think the wrong message has been put out. No one's really talking about how good it is for the kids. If you really think about it, this is the right thing to do. Kids are going to camps all over the country, spending all this money to try and get the most amount of exposure, when it's the schools that have all the money.

"The schools should be moving around so the players can get a larger variety of teams."

A current assistant at a non-power school working multiple satellite camps this summer rejected the SEC talking points, that satellite camps are too taxing on assistant coach schedules or that players should only be able to camp with coaches on campuses.

"If you take away the politics, this is huge for the kids," the assistant said.

"You can't argue that. Can you imagine a poor kid from Miami, trying to get him and whoever, a mom or dad, up and back from Michigan on a visit? They have to fly or rent a car, and most of these kids don't have the means to do either one.

"Let's be honest. Jim [Harbaugh] is doing it now. And Urban [Meyer] is doing it. And Penn State just did it. And the SEC coaches are in Destin [the Florida town a few hours from USF that hosted the SEC's spring meetings]. That's why you're hearing about this. It doesn't have anything to do with anything other than competition."

Could SEC coaches and admins use backroom politics to punish these small schools for hosting out-of-region powers, perhaps by refusing to network? The assistant rejected the notion.

"You can't think of it in those terms. The SEC coaches aren't. This is a small business built by relationships. No one's going to try and punish anyone. Because we're all one bad year away from asking each other for a job. What you'll see is the SEC on board with this. Auburn camping in Miami, or Arkansas in Dallas.

"And besides, if a kid from Florida or Alaska wants to go to Alabama and play for Saban, he's probably going to Alabama."