The NCAA voted on April 8th to shut down all satellite recruiting camps. In the aftermath of the ruling, there's been plenty of reactions and think pieces suggesting the ban may be a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and the arguments aren't going to die down anytime soon.
At the Group of Five level the AAC, Conference USA, and MAC voted against the ban on satellite camps. Yet the Sun Belt voted for them, puzzling many a G5 analyst. A number of folks around the conference are not happy, including bowl teams Arkansas State, Georgia State and Appalachian State. Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Mark Hudspeth, however, was for the ban.
"I am in favor of banning the camps. It's totally out of control, just ruining the entire summer for prospects and for coaches, (Hudspeth) said. "Plus that keeps more in state players here. We've got a lot of talent in this state and we want those guys coming to our camp this summer."
We don't know how each school reacted to satellite camps at an institutional level, but the topic was complicated enough to deserve a reasonable discussion among member schools regardless. A discussion that didn't happen. Per Hudspeth:
On Friday the NCAA passed several pieces of key legislation, and Hudspeth had mixed feelings on the new rules. He expressed frustration over not being consulted before any rules were changed.
"I think it's a bad deal personally, the head coaches in Division I are never consulted until after the fact and I'm really frustrated with that part of it, how we're never consulted," he said.
We have it on good authority that Appalachian State's AD informed alumni that the Sun Belt conference representative to the NCAA voted against the satellite camps on his own accord without consulting member schools first.
That mysterious representative to the NCAA's Division I council is not commissioner Karl Benson; instead it turns out to be Texas State Bobcats athletic director Larry Teis.
One might see from a distance why someone from Texas State would vote against satellite camps. After all, the Bobcats are often up against northern Power 5 conference schools for a wealth of in-state three-star recruits. Kansas State, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, and Iowa State are all examples that head coaches Dennis Franchione and Everett Withers have gone head to head with on the recruiting trail. Why not keep those schools out of the Lone Star State by any means necessary?
However, that explanation over-simplifies Texas State's recruiting situation. Franchione and his former staff actually put on satellite camps in their recruiting hot spots and established some pipelines there. Former Bobcat linebacker Mike Orakpo, a Houston product, made this point on Twitter:
Also keeps schools like TXST from hosting camps in Houston/DFW which more than half of the team is usually from https://t.co/hdQHh8EGn5— Mike Orakpo (@Raknation) April 12, 2016
In case you haven't heard, Texas is a gigantic state. Two of the biggest recruiting gold mines in the country are a four-hour drive away from San Marcos, and let's not even talk about the Herculean distances to get to prospects in east Texas, the Panhandle, or far west Texas.
Satellite camps were a way of helping to bridge those distances. Franchione did it, and, lo and behold, Withers was scheduled to do it.
There's even a standalone website for his camps (link here). It's presumably piggybacked off of Texas State's Athletics website given its similar format. Just in case they take it down, here's a screenshot of the schedule Withers had on tap before the satellite camp ban was enacted:
We don't know for sure what Withers' opinion was, and probably won't ever know since he risks publicly criticizing his boss by speaking out. Maybe those satellite camps were merely a defense mechanism against northern P5 schools setting up shop in Texas, and perhaps Withers didn't really want them. Yet given his attempts to openly publicize the camps and his recent focus on recruiting in Dallas-Fort Worth, it's also difficult to assume Withers would be against them. WELP, never mind. Update as of 6:08 PM:
#TXST coach Withers on satellite camp ban, "I think it was a snap decision. Not very good for kids that need coaches like myself in..." (1/2— Keff Ciardello (@Keff_C) April 14, 2016
"... the Sun Belt and the MAC to be able to go to Texas and Ohio State camps and see those kids." (2/2)— Keff Ciardello (@Keff_C) April 14, 2016
Withers spoke rather bluntly about satellite camp ban: "It was a snap decision. It's a really bad decision." #TXST— Joe Vozzelli (@smdrjoe) April 14, 2016
Asked if he was consulted by anyone before Teis' and other AD votes on NCAA council were cast. Withers: "Yes, in surveys."— Joe Vozzelli (@smdrjoe) April 14, 2016
So it's certainly looking like Withers and Teis are at odds on this issue.
However, Withers refrained from criticizing Teis directly, rightly pointing out that the big conferences held all the real power in the proceedings.
Withers: "This was nothing to do with us...this was the SEC and the Big 10 and I knew who would win that one."— Joe Vozzelli (@smdrjoe) April 14, 2016
Reactions from Bobcat Twitter and former players were a bit puzzled at times.
Lawrence White (@LawrenceW_GLA) April 12, 2016
This move doesn't help student athletes or the Bobcat coaching staff, and possibly makes the latter group's jobs that much harder. Texas State isn't exactly swimming in money, so getting recruits on campus will remain difficult. Scouting recruits will be a much tougher job as more miles and manpower will be needed in an already resource intensive process.
Also, as the mothership has already documented in detail, this does no favors for recruits or their often cash-strapped families.
So why exactly did Teis vote for the ban on satellite camps? There aren't any answers to be found from commissioner Karl Benson's incomprehensible explanation:
"The Sun Belt voted on a controversial issue to eliminate these satellite camps. Six of ten FBS conferences voted to eliminate these camps. The pros and cons of these camps can be debated, and I am sure there will continue to be discussion on this matter, but for now the majority has spoken and it's time to move on and the Sun Belt football programs will continue to get better with or without these camps."
Perhaps there's a logical explanation for Teis's vote. Maybe this was an informal agreement dictated to Teis exclusively by the SBC university presidents, much like the decision to not extend permanent memberships to NMSU and Idaho.
Maybe his intentions were less pure. Was Teis a puppet voting to satisfy Benson, a larger moneyed interest, or perhaps even Texas State president Denise Trauth? She holds considerable administrative power in the Sun Belt and receives great skepticism by many pro-athletics Bobcat alumni. Was he trying to angle towards a cushy bureaucratic position with the NCAA and escape a fanbase that doesn't love him?
We might never know what Teis's reasoning was unless there's a leak from Sun Belt administrators (who seem just as baffled as everyone else) or he's pressured to make a rare public comment to Texas State beat writer Joe Vozzelli.
It's complicated. I am trying to determine if Teis polled rest of Sun Belt AD's before he voted. https://t.co/CgsEXdTq8n— Joe Vozzelli (@smdrjoe) April 14, 2016
Even if Teis truly acted on his own accord, that still belies a structural problem for the Sun Belt as a whole. His lack of communication with other ADs and coaches conveys that the will of almost an entire conference can be potentially subverted by one administrator's opinion.
On a larger scale, this also shows for the umpteenth time how a handful of predominantly affluent--and, quite often, out of touch--administrators and bureaucrats can have a disproportionate impact on a wealth of decisions that may have large and negative impacts on players and their families.
Of course, that revelation will shock nobody, and that's precisely the problem.