By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) All’s fair in love and war.
And perhaps college football recruiting.
Although, this week, the SEC – of all leagues – is arguing otherwise now that Notre Dame and Penn State, a pair of (gasp!) northern schools, have declared their intention to invade the south’s fertile recruiting turf by bending the NCAA rules in a way that SEC schools would surely admire.
If they weren’t on the short end of the stick, that is.
Here’s the hot read on the situation that has SEC coaches crying foul: NCAA rules prohibit coaches from running camps more than 50 miles from their campuses, but they does allow “guest coaching” at camps hosted by other programs – no matter where those programs might be located.
As a result, Nittany Lions coach James Franklin will “guest” host satellite football camps this summer at both Georgia State University in Atlanta and Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., while Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly is planning to do the same at Georgia State.
Georgia State and Stetson benefit from the arrangement by drawing more high-quality players to their camps, while Penn State and Notre Dame sidestep the NCAA rulebook and get to work with and recruit athletes because they’re merely considered to be “guests” of the host staffs.
Such satellite camps are sending SEC coaches into orbit because their conference is the only one in the nation that outlaws its members from being guests at another school’s camp. That rule is surely something that’s now drawing a chuckle from Franklin, who recently matriculated to Happy Valley after spending three seasons coaching in the SEC at Vanderbilt.
“Our thought was that the Big Ten and NCAA rules allow you to do these things,” Franklin told ESPN earlier this month. “And we wanted to not only have camps on our campus — which we’re going to have a bunch of them – but also be able to maybe take the Penn State brand and be able to take it to part of the country (where) maybe young men and families wouldn’t be able to make it to our place. And I’m fired up about it. It seems like the high school coaches are as well.”
Not surprisingly, SEC coaches are fired up for different reasons and this week asked commissioner Mike Slive to put a stop to the practice by encouraging the NCAA to adopt the SEC’s rule of prohibiting its coaching from “guest coaching” at a school more than 50 miles away from campus.
“I’m not for us doing that, I wish it was a national rule,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze told reporters at the SEC meetings in Destin, Fla. “Certainly, I don’t particularly want another school in a BCS conference coming into our state and running a camp, so we would like to see our rule be a national rule.”
Now, I don’t at all blame the SEC coaches for being irritated by Franklin’s and Kelly’s tactics. In fact, I’ve complained in the past when schools such as Duke have hosted “home” basketball games at the United Center in Chicago, which were clear ploys to invade Chicago’s recruiting turf and gain footholds in the talent-rich city.
However, while I may not like such college basketball maneuvers, they aren’t against the rules, just like Penn State’s and Notre Dame’s ploys aren’t illegal in college football. As a result, I have to give those programs kudos for finding a clever way to compete against the kingpins of pigskin in the SEC.
And I’d feel more sympathy for the SEC coaches if I believed that they truly wanted to outlaw the practices that Penn State and Notre Dame are using, rather than adopt them if they could. Because on that topic, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said during the SEC meetings, “I don’t want to speak for everybody in the room, but from what I heard in there is most of our coaches would be in favor of at least being on an even playing field.”
He surely spoke for everybody in the room.
Ironically, this morning, news broke that Penn State football recruit Josh Barajas, a highly ranked linebacker from Merrillville, Ind., has broken his commitment to the Nittany Lions and flipped to Notre Dame. Upon hearing that, I couldn’t help but wonder if James Franklin may soon be scheduling a camp in Indiana, too.
All’s fair, I suppose.