Jim Harbaugh and Michigan will be just fine.
In a ruling that appeased seemingly nobody outside of a Southeastern coaches' office, the NCAA Division I council voted Friday to ban its football coaches from attending summer camps away from their campuses. Harbaugh became the poster child for these satellite camps last summer when his carpetbagging tour of the South kicked up a storm of dust around what has been a fairly common practice for a number of schools in the past decade.
On Friday, according to ESPN's Brett McMurphy, the Big Ten was the only Power 5 conference to vote in favor of allowing the camps to continue. The successful opposing effort was led by representatives from the SEC and the ACC. So if Friday's decision was a win for them, who was the loser?
Not Michigan. Not Harbaugh. He still has his off-campus spring practice (for now), his signing-day extravaganza and his unique willingness to question the status quo that will inevitably produce another loophole-seeking missile to upset his peers in due time. Michigan's national profile is on the rise and its coaching staff will find a way to wiggle into living rooms south of the Mason-Dixon Line in one way or another.
Group of 5 schools took a pretty good blow. Smart programs such as Georgia State co-hosted events with brand-name schools such as Penn State and Nebraska to attract a higher profile of prospects to their camps in the talent-rich Peach State. They went to a bowl game last December after finishing 1-11 the year before. Boise State's staff has visited camps in California for several years to bring some West Coast talent to isolated Idaho.
Yet the Sun Belt Conference (home to Georgia State) and the Mountain West (home to Boise State) voted to ban the camps, according to McMurphy, a decision that appears to go strongly against their own interests.
Schools aren't allowed to pay for a prospect's campus visit until the fall of his senior year. In today's recruiting cycle, that's too late for many of them. For the high schoolers who can't afford to fly across the country to be evaluated by staffs outside of their immediate vicinity, the satellite camps provided a chance to be seen.
The counterargument made by coaches in the SEC and ACC is that recruiting has become too much of a year-round endeavor and June (prime time for satellite camps) is one of the few times when football staffs can spend quality time with their families. That's an admirable stance, but if we're deciding between unpaid teenagers or millionaire coaches having to travel around the country, that seems like an easy choice. Most people who make a few million dollars a year have to sacrifice family time to do so.
If you don't want to work a demanding schedule in June, take a pay cut. Plenty of Division II schools would love to have you.
Or, better yet, just don't go to satellite camps. There is no NCAA rule mandating that all schools must attend or co-host satellite camps. If you want to trade a better quality of life and lower burnout rate on your staff for a few family weekends in June, there's a pretty good argument to be made for that approach.
Furthermore, do Southern schools really need satellite camps? Four out of the top five (and seven out of the top 10) recruiting classes this February belong to ACC and SEC schools, even with those pesky Big Ten coaches poking around in their backyards when they weren't allowed to make trips themselves. How much of an actual disadvantage does it present?
The recruiting arms race in college football has instilled a fear of falling behind that is so deeply rooted in the sport's leaders that any change, even one that provides a minimal advantage at best, sparks a fight-or-flight reaction. Rather than evaluating the effectiveness of these camps -- who benefits and who doesn't -- the sport's powers decided to add another rule to the NCAA tome. It's not going to be an innovative coach with oodles of resources on his hands like Harbaugh who will suffer. As usual, the unpaid teenagers will end up paying the price.