Penn State’s Satellite Recruiting Camps Draw Ire Of SEC

The arrival of James Franklin at Penn State brought not just an injection of new life into the program, but years of experience competing for highly sought-after recruits in the southern hotbeds of America — the famed “SEC country.” Using a loophole in the NCAA rulebook to participate in football camps in southern territory, the second-year coach is continuing to draw the ire of the South Eastern Conference.

Speaking Monday at the Associated Press Sports Editors Southeast region meeting at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, outgoing SEC commissioner Mike Slive was asked about the issue of satellite camps. Last year, Slive said the SEC would approach the NCAA about closing the loophole.

“We are going to have a camp up at Penn State,” Slive quipped, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

According to NCAA Rule, teams can’t host a camp outside of its own state or within a 50-mile radius if the campus is located on the border of a state. However, there’s nothing in the rulebook that prevents teams from partnering with other programs — a practice Penn State began last summer with rising SunBelt program Georgia State.

In Feb. 2014, Big Ten coaches discussed this practice to determine whether it should be allowed within the conference in the future and came to the conclusion that it was well within the rules for now. By contrast, SEC rules prohibit coaches from “guest coaching” more than 50 miles from campus. The SEC and ACC are the only two conferences out of the power five with such a rule.

“We just had a conversation with our coaches,” commissioner-elect Greg Sankey said, who will replace Slive in three months. “We said look, there are two options. One is you can remove a conference rule and free yourselves up to engage in that behavior. Or, you can introduce a national rule to say camps are camps that are on campus, like we have in basketball. Our coaches said we’d like national legislation that says run your camps on your campus. We will have that conversation in Destin (at the SEC Spring Meetings in May).”

Despite the vocal displeasure of Penn State’s tactics from SEC coaches last May, Franklin only continues his effort to expand the Nittany Lions’ recruiting reach. Penn State reached an agreement with Old Dominion’s coaches to host a spring camp in Norfolk, Va. this summer, in addition to five other stops including Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, and Detroit.

“The next observation is I’m not sure that the others want our coaches going to places like State College, Pennsylvania, because very clearly, if we do take the approach others have, they will go places and run those satellite camps, and it will certainly I would expect change the tone of the conversation,” Sankey added. “Part of what I appreciate among our coaches is they view the responsible thing to do is to focus our camps on campus. That’s what we’re going to pursue at this time.”

In the meantime, Penn State coaches are unapologetic about the unorthodox move, and rightfully so. After all, it’s well within NCAA guidelines.

“We’re going to go wherever we have to go to find players,” Franklin explained last year. “We’re going to read the rules and understand the rules, and, like you guys have heard me say before, it’s not like we’re going to lack for enthusiasm or lack for work ethic. We’ll go wherever we got to go.”

In addition to getting under the SEC’s skin, Penn State’s unusual approach is also paying huge dividends in recruiting. Franklin secured a Top-20 class (No. 18) in 2014 during a short turnaround after being hired in January, and followed it up with nation’s 12th-best class in 2015, according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings. Penn State’s class even reached as high as No. 5 according to Scout on the eve of National Signing Day.

“If we get one player from this camp,” Franklin said, “it’s worth it.”

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About the Author

CJ Doon

CJ is a senior journalism major from Long Island and Onward State's Sports Editor. He is a third-generation Penn Stater, and his grandfather wrestled for the university back in the 1930s under coach Charlie “Doc” Speidel. Besides writing, one of his favorite activities is making sea puns. You can follow him on Twitter @CJDoon, and send your best puns to [email protected], just for the halibut.

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