clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The NCAA's satellite camps controversy, explained as simply as it possibly can be

Here's everything to know about this thing.

This is a picture of Jim Harbaugh and a Southern coach
This is a picture of Jim Harbaugh and a Southern coach
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletes. We know this because someone typed it on the NCAA's web page and something similar is posted on Wikipedia.

Another thing the NCAA is dedicated to is generating large piles of money from things like the college basketball tournament and the College Football Playoff. The TV contract for the NCAA basketball tournament was renewed just last week for $8.8 billion, which the NCAA will pass along to student-athletes in the form of free hotel WiFi.

To promote these missions the NCAA creates rules and punishments.

The NCAA is the pretend government of an imaginary country where the citizens are middle-aged people who yell a lot and college students who are in excellent shape. The NCAA decides how and when these citizens can communicate, travel and practice sports.

If a student breaks NCAA rules, he or she must sit out some games. As that student's teammates take the field, he or she is required to stand on the sidelines looking ashamed while wearing a pullover with a logo on it. On the other hand, if a coach breaks NCAA rules, he or she has to pay tuition for three college students out of his or her own pocket. Just kidding, the NCAA punishes the coach by preventing several students from attending school for free.

The NCAA has designed a very complicated algorithm to determine fair punishments for different types of rule-breaking, and because you do not work at the NCAA, you cannot understand it. Just know that the well-being of each athlete is always being protected.

Recent examples of NCAA punishments include having to sit out ...

  • one-half football game: Selling thousands of autographs, probably (2013, Johnny Manziel)
  • 4 football games: Lots and lots of cash and yachts and strippers (2011, many Miami guys)
  • 4 football games: Accepting $3,000 for autographs and being honest about it (2014, Todd Gurley)
  • 5 football games: Getting free tattoos (2010, Terrelle Pryor)
  • 1 full football season: Lying about being friends with Deion Sanders (2009, Dez Bryant)
  • 1 full basketball season: First positive drug test for marijuana (2014, Mitch McGary)

The NCAA hates many things, from expensive meals to part-time jobs to Bruce Pearl. But there is nothing the NCAA hates more than recruiting.

Recruiting happens when a coach visits and calls and texts high school students to explain why his college is the ideal place for them to spend four years and get a degree, unless and until that coach takes a job at a different college, in which case he will update the students that his new college is actually the ideal place for them to spend four years and get a degree.

To help college football coaches understand which players they should talk to, men with computers grant each player one to five stars. The coaches then invite the players with the most stars to camps held either on or off their college campuses, so that they can teach them football things and impress them with their brains and smiles. The off-campus events are called "satellite camps."

Many satellite camps are held in the South by Northern schools, because many many very good high school football players live in the South.

The Southern schools do not like satellite camps very much.

Southern schools have fun nicknames like "Bama" and "Dawgs" and "Ole" and a rich football tradition. Part of that tradition used to involve not letting some of the best football players from the South go to Southern schools, but they have fixed that entirely and now their focus is on making sure the best football players in the South only go to Southern schools. One way they try to do that is by keeping the Northern schools and their goddamn satellite camps out of the South.

This makes Northern fans and coaches very mad, although those fans and coaches of course also want their own local football players to "stay home" if they are talented enough to be useful. If a two-star running back from Columbus chooses Yale, Ohio State fans will call it a fun success story. If a five-star running back from Columbus chooses Stanford, he will be deemed a traitor and the fans will barrage him with angry emoji until he either changes his mind or moves away.

Being fair is not the Southern schools' job. Being fair is the NCAA's job.

And for reasons that you cannot understand because you do not work at the NCAA, many other NCAA conferences started listening to the Southern schools and decided that satellite camps are kind of bad.

When the NCAA thinks something is kind of bad, it studies that thing to determine whether regulating it will be easy or hard. If easy, the NCAA will make up 839 pages of rules and punishments for it. If hard, the NCAA will either:

  1. let everyone do it or
  2. let nobody do it.

For example, the NCAA used to limit the number of texts a coach could send high school children, but regulating that became kind of hard, so now the NCAA allows coaches to send as many texts as they want. On the other hand, satellite camps became increasingly popular and regulating them became kind of hard, so on April 8 the NCAA's conferences voted to ban satellite camps altogether, even though one of the conferences that agreed with the Southern schools says it voted wrong.

Now, you may find it confusing that coaches can send thousands of texts to a high school student but cannot invite him to an instructional camp near his home, but just remember that the NCAA is dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletes.


Get one roundup of college football stories, rumors, game breakdowns, and Jim Harbaugh oddity in your inbox every morning.

Besides, there are two very good reasons that satellite camps should not exist.

1. Information is confusing.

Pretend you are a high school student who is very good at football, and men with computers have granted you four stars. You always dreamed of playing football at the big college near your home called Schmississippi, so when Schmississippi offers you a scholarship, you are very happy.

Then something happens: you are invited to a satellite camp near your hometown run by coaches from a faraway land called Shmoregon. You are 17, and the satellite camp is two of your favorite things: cheap and convenient.

At this satellite camp, you learn football things and talk to the Shmoregon coaches. They tell you all about Shmoregon and invite you to visit their campus. So you visit Shmoregon, and you like it. It's not really better or worse than Schmississippi, but it is different. It has new, giant, shiny buildings and more uniforms than you could ever imagine.

Shmoregon offers you a scholarship, too, and now you aren't so sure where you want to go to college after all.

You are an idiot. Life is easier when it is simple. Information and opportunities only make things complicated. If you're eating an Oreo, do you look at the nutrition information on the package? Yeah, if you hate yourself. Is it good to read a newspaper? Sure, if you like learning about car crashes and wars and seeing a list of people who died. When you receive a Visa bill in the mail, do you open it or put it in the shredder? You know the right answer.

Information and opportunity are the enemies of the simple life. Satellite camps involve both of those things and therefore they should be illegal.

2. Jim Harbaugh likes satellite camps.

Jim Harbaugh is the football coach at Michigan and is what is known in coaching circles as a "penis."

He makes very serious and angry faces. He often marches around, throws up his hands and points at a thing that just happened. He once shook a man's hand so aggressively that SportsCenter featured it for two weeks. He is one of the 10 People Most Likely to Be Storing Human Body Parts in Industrial Barrels in His Garage, ranked just behind Gary Busey and ahead of Will Muschamp.

He sends tweets like this:

And Jim Harbaugh likes satellite camps very very much. They help Michigan and they make Southern schools angry, which are two of his favorite things.

It is important that Jim Harbaugh does not get what he wants, ever. The world is happier when he is sad. Jim Harbaugh likes satellite camps, and therefore they should be illegal.

NCAA enforcement is a complicated thing.

Just keep in mind that the NCAA is dedicated to the well-being, lifelong success and hotel Wi-Fi needs of college athletes.