College football coaches and prospective student-athletes upset with the NCAA's recent decision to ban satellite football camps might have a new ally in their fight to get the ruling reversed.
According to a report by USA Today, the United States Department of Justice has begun an informal inquiry into the topic of satellite camps, a term used to describe clinics recruits attend at facilities that are not on FBS programs' campuses. The report says the DOJ has already reached out to college football coaches, conference commissioners and college administrators with the focus of the inquiry on how not having satellite camps diminishes access to coaches and scholarship opportunities.
The Department of Justice has not responded to ESPN.com's questions about the investigation.
On April 8, the NCAA shut down satellite camps, effective immediately, with a ruling by the Division I council that required FBS programs to conduct all clinics at school facilities or facilities regularly used for practice or competition. The council's vote is scheduled to go to the NCAA's board of directors for ratification on Thursday.
Satellite camps have been a hot-button issue in the recruiting world for the past five years and Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 teams have conducted them all over the country. They reached national awareness after Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh conducted an eight-day "Summer Swarm" tour in 2015 that took the Wolverines' deep into SEC recruiting territory. The ACC and SEC forbid schools from conducting satellite camps, so numerous SEC coaches were outspoken about Michigan's camps and pushed the NCAA to get the recruiting rules changed.
That push worked, as the SEC, ACC, Pac-12 and Big 12 conferences all voted to end satellite camps, a source said. Among the Group of 5 conferences, the Sun Belt and Mountain West voted against the satellite camps, while the Mid-American, Conference USA and American were in favor of continuing the camps.
However, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said last week UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero voted the wrong way on behalf of the league. Scott said 11 of the 12 schools in the conference were in favor of keeping satellite camps, but Guerrero voted to ban them. The Sun Belt also initially voted to ban the satellite camps, but commissioner Karl Benson said last week that if there were a revote today, his conference would be 7-5 in favor of keeping the camps.
The results of the vote also struck a nerve with satellite-camp supporters who believe the ban limits the visibility and exposure recruits have, which appears to be the crux of the Department of Justice's review.
Supporters say not having satellite camps makes it more expensive for recruits to continue getting the same exposure, and Ohio State's Urban Meyer, Nebraska's Mike Riley, Oregon's Mark Helfrich, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, Rutgers' Chris Ash, Utah's Kyle Whittingham, Washington State's Mike Leach and a host of other coaches have spoken out publicly against the ban and the negative implications it could have.
Coaches also say the ban could also have a damaging effect on teams from the Group of 5, Division II and Division III. Many smaller-school programs rely on satellite camps often run by larger programs in one of the Power 5 leagues to find student-athletes overlooked during the recruitment process.
Harbaugh recently said he and his athletic director, Warde Manuel, are working on a plan of action to try to repeal the proposal. "There's always urgency in my mind to help kids, our program and, in this case, the sport of football," Harbaugh said.
ESPN has reported that for the satellite ban to be overturned, 66.7 percent of 128 FBS programs need to request that the ruling be rescinded within a 60-day override period. Because the original vote received only 66.6 percent approval, well below the 85 percent that would have made the rule unreviewable, the programs that disagree with the ruling can still get the ban rescinded. The original vote to ban the camps was done by conference representatives, whereas a reversal would require individual votes from programs.