BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is chalking up the elimination of satellite camps as a win for equality in recruiting, and not the result of an SEC power move on the national landscape.
The NCAA decided Friday to ban satellite camps, ending a two-year discussion that sent SEC coaches in a tizzy as Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and other Big Ten coaches visited and hosted camps at high schools in their states.
Sankey, who has vehemently fought against the camps, called them “recruiting tour events” that go against the regular recruiting calendar during a question-and-answer session with reporters at the Associated Press Sports Editors’ southeast region meeting Monday.
“I do not view that we have removed opportunities for young people,” said Sankey, who said the issue has been a concern since 2011. “In fact, if you look at what may happened, it would not have remained constant if the council had not acted. We would have had dozens and dozens of events, particularly in large metropolitan areas, and there would have been pressure on young people to attend those events.”
Sankey pointed to handling recruiting in a “scholastic environment,” rather than migrating outside the recruiting calendar via loopholes in previous legislation.
“If people want to have discussions about expanding the evaluation period that should be a piece of the holistic conversation,” Sankey said. “We shouldn’t be creating ad hoc recruiting events that more and more involve intentional marketing efforts, sponsors involved.”
Michigan has been at the center of the satellite camp conversation since Harbaugh’s hiring in 2015. He conducted camps across the country, most notably in the SEC’s backyard of Prattville, Alabama. He later hired an assistant coach from the high school to his support staff and irked SEC coaches further by scheduling a week of spring practices at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
“One of the concerns that we have is that these (satellite camp) events become fund-raising endeavors around college coaches,” Sankey said. “We are not to be involved in fund-raising for programs associated with prospects. We’re just not. Yeah, that potential was there. That was a concern.”
When asked to play word association with the name “Harbaugh,” who Sankey has indirectly addressed in verbal spats about the issue in recent months, he responded: “I move on,” which elicited a chorus of laughs from the room of reporters. “It is unfortunate to me, because I tried to explain a timeline that has nothing to do with another conference, and it’s unfortunate that this conversation has become that specific. That’s incorrect in understanding the full scope of our discussion about recruiting tours.”