NCAA Board Must Reject Satellite Camp Ban - Higher Education
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NCAA Board Must Reject Satellite Camp Ban

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Satellite camp? Sounds like something high tech, space station kind of stuff.  Practically STEM-ed.

Never heard od it before? It’s a big deal if you’re a young kid in high school with the dream of playing college football.

But if you’re talking good old boy, big time college football, then the idea is just a major annoyance.

That would be the view of one distinguished professor of football, AKA coach, at an institution like Ole Miss. Hugh Freeze makes $5 million dollars for his efforts, and lives by the football version of “publish or perish.” In other words, “just win, baby.”  Freeze thinks satellite camp is for the birds.

Last week, the SEC, the conference representing Freeze’s school, joined a majority of FBS conferences and four of the five autonomous conferences to affirm the wishes of coaches like Freeze and ban satellite camps immediately.

In doing so, they crushed the hopes and dreams of countless talented student athletes  who may now get overlooked and lose out on valuable scholarships.

Is that anyway for the NCAA to act?

The ban effectively kills the opportunity for coaches from schools near and far to set up remote facilities in order to see a student who may be off the radar but just wants a chance to prove himself.

Satellite camps were a great idea for a coach like University of Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.

He loved them because Michigan in Ann Arbor is some 753 miles, or about 11 hours and 33 minutes by car from Oxford, Mississippi.

Last year, Harbaugh showed his willingness to go to the mountain of O-Line and D-Line prospects in places like Mississippi. Especially, if the mountain of young high school talent couldn’t afford to make a  1,500 mile round trip from Mississippi to Michigan. Or to any camp or place where they can be seen and evaluated.

There’s your win-win.

Satellite camps were a real opportunity for everyone. Friday’s ban even applies to hybrid-style camps run by Michigan State’s Curtis Blackwell, the founder of a two-day camp called Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy in Detroit. It taught football and life skills and attracted dozens of head coaches from schools big and small looking to discover that diamond in the rough.

Not anymore.

The new rule backs the coaches who like their home grown talent to stay right where they are. They’re the ones who thought Harbaugh’s satellite camping was just a gimmick that enabled poaching coaches.

Besides, the whole idea of a barnstorming, travelling talent search was forcing SEC and ACC coaches to adapt, work a little harder, maybe even plan their own satellite camps in order to hold their own against competition.

The vote on Friday was like a protectionist trade act for college football.

Good for the major football powers, and coaches. Bad for the student athlete.

What’s wrong with this picture?

The students lose –again.

There’s only one good solution.  There’s already talk about the need for national oversight of the NCAA, and a bill in Congress is poised to do just that.

But that could create an unwanted political war. The NCAA could simply avert any of that by doing the right thing when its board meets at the end of April.

Instead of rubber stamping the satellite camp ban, the board can simply reject it outright, thereby restoring the ability of coaches to setup remote camps and give students an opportunity to compete for a chance to play ball.

That’s the way the NCAA can survive in its present form, by assuring us all that in the big scheme of things students actually come first.

Otherwise, a satellite camp ban only reinforces the notion that the NCAA exists as a network of mostly white men who make millions of dollars from televising the exploits of young amateur, sometime student, athletes.

If the satellite camp ban sticks, it’s just another example that the NCAA has lost focus and is desperately in need of reform.

Emil Guillermo is a veteran journalist and commentator on race, politics and society. He writes at http://www.aaldef.org/blog

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