Now that we're about halfway through the satellite camp cycle, much of the initial shock from the NCAA's decision to bring the camps back after temporarily banning them has subsided. Many coaches -- even those passionately against the camps -- have come to accept the role they play in the recruiting process, and recruits are flocking to the events like never before.
Even so, astute observers have noticed that not all satellite camps are created equal.
NCAA rules prohibit colleges from hosting camps outside a 50-mile radius from their campuses, but with its decision in April to reinstate the camps, coaches are again allowed to host events within their own state or within that radius, serve as guest coaches at camps staged by other institutions and participate in non-institutional camps or clinics hosted by outside organizations. It's those non-institutional camps that have come under the microscope of recruiters, recruits and parents over the past few weeks.
"Some of the third-party groups putting on these camps at high schools and other places don't have a clue what they're doing," a Big Ten assistant that has attended around 10 satellite camps already this summer said. "There are plenty that do a tremendous job -- folks like the Sound Mind, Sound Body organizers, and I thought the Next Level Camp in New Jersey was run like a well-oiled machine -- but there was another event we were at where they were so disorganized the kids didn't even have water for the first half of the camp and there wasn't a trainer in sight.
"To me, that's a money grab by those organizers. The recruits and their families don't know any better. All they see is that they're advertising college coaches will be there, and coaches show up because the organizers promise there will be players there."
A Pac-12 recruiter said he was turned off by a non-institutional camp he attended last week in California where organizers charged players $125 to attend. He also said organizers at another event he attended were lax in enforcing the rules coaches must follow at the event. NCAA legislation prevents coaches from recruiting at these events, but the Pac-12 coach said he witnessed coaches talking with prospects about scheduling a campus visit and even asking them to pose for pictures next to another coach so they can "show their head coach how tall the recruit was."
Even the recruits and their families can notice the difference between the two different types of satellite camps.
Anthony Payne had more than 15 scholarship offers from programs all over the country, but the defensive end from Peculiar (Missouri) Raymore-Peculiar was still searching for his first Power 5 offer. That's why Payne attended satellite camps with Missouri, Kansas, Iowa State, Arkansas and still has plans to attend camps with Nebraska and Kansas State. It's also why he joined nearly 400 other players at last Wednesday's Midwest Elite Camp at Blue Springs (Missouri) South High School in suburban Kansas City.
The star of the day so far at the Midwest Elite Camp, other than Jim Harbaugh, has been DL Anthony Payne of Ray-Pec. pic.twitter.com/w67jo7263T— Jeremy Crabtree (@jeremycrabtree) June 15, 2016
Payne went through more than three hours of drills in 100-plus degree heat on a crowded turf field hoping to impress the coaches from Michigan, Iowa and Kansas that were in attendance. Payne picked up a coveted offer from the Wolverines after leaving a lasting impression on the Michigan coaches, especially Jim Harbaugh, who personally started recruiting Payne after he dominated the camp.
However, there was little question Payne and his father noticed a difference between the non-institutional camp and those that were run by the actual schools.
"That satellite camp was a bit of a cluster -- kids fighting for reps, kids that didn't even get a rep," Anthony's father Nick Payne said. "You have to be very aggressive at those types of camps to catch the attention of the coaches. They should always cap these at 200 kids. More than that and it's unfair to the kids. Another main difference would be when you attend a camp held by the college coaches, the athlete seems to get more one-on-one reps and coaching with the actual college coaches."
It should be noted that not all camps put on by institutions are without flaws, because there are always going to be logistical issues when dealing with hundreds of players, parents, registration forms, NCAA rules, weather and facilities. However, many recruiters agree actual college programs are best-suited to deal with these hurdles.
"You don't get on a college coaching staff unless you're highly organized, and that's why I'd rather attend a camp run by a school every single time," a Big 12 coach that has attended his school's satellite camps, another school's camps and a non-institutional camp this summer, said. "It's almost a buyer-beware situation. Some of these camps run by third-parties are great, but many aren't. So I would tell recruits and their families to do as much research as possible and talk to the coaches recruiting them about these camps before shelling out any money."