From the sounds of it, the SEC spring meetings this week have been as productive as one could hope for. They've covered early signing day preferences, the scheduling of FCS programs, and even tossed around the idea of having a tenth full-time assistant on staff.
The topic of serving as "guest coaches" at football camps also became a rather hot-button issue at the meetings as well.
About seven years ago the NCAA passed a rule that limits where college football programs could run high school camps, limiting them to any out-of-state location that sits more than 50 miles from campus. However, former Vanderbilt and new Penn State head coach James Franklin (and various other staffs) have found a loophole that allows coaching staffs to work at, but not hold or run, camps outside of that 50 mile radius. Yahoo detailed the process a year ago.
You see, while other conferences allow their coaches to guest coach at other schools' camps, the SEC does not.
So while Franklin and his staff can travel a few thousand miles to work camps, spread their brand, and work with some high quality high school talent at colleges right down the road from the University of Georgia and the University of Florida, SEC coaches can only do the same if the location they're serving as guest coaches at is within 50 miles of campus.
So this week SEC coaches apparently asked Slive to try to put a stop from it happening, according to ESPN.
"That's our backyard, so anytime those things happen, your eyes and ears perk up to say, 'What do we need to address [the issue] if that's a hindrance,'" Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork told ESPN's Brett McMurphy. "If it's a competitive disadvantage, then we need to look at it."
Examine the issue from the student-athlete's perspective. A high school sophomore from Georgia is able to get personal, hands-on coaching and evaluation from an elite-level coaching staff from the Big Ten without hopping on an airplane. More coaching, more exposure, more options. It puts the SEC at a disadvantage, but it's an self-inflicted disadvantage. The Big 12 continues to function competitively despite Oklahoma State guest coaching at several camps in Texas. The same goes for the Big Ten, where Iowa will work camps in the Chicagoland area.
The SEC may not like it, but it also has no power to change the rule on its own. In the near future, high school players will receive offers from some schools that offer a full cost-of-attendance scholarship, and some that do not. Some schools may provide meals and snacks around the clock, and some may not. The NCAA is getting out of the business of legislative equality, and it's doubtful the SEC will rally enough allies to repeal this rule.
The way I see it, and the rest of the staff here at The Scoop tends to agree, is that Franklin is operating well within the rules of the NCAA and Big Ten. He understands that this is allowed under the current structure of camp guidelines, and is taking full advantage of it. Frankly (no pun intended) James Franklin is just like any other coach looking for creative ways to gain a competitive advantage.
By extending Penn State's footprint with recruits and other coaches and staffers at these camps, he's doing exactly that.
(H/T Zach Barnett for the collaboration on this article).