Notre Dame has spent most of 2014 completely overhauling its image in every way, from removing its grass playing surface to keeping an open mind on adding transfers. Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly has made it very clear that every option will be considered moving forward, and this week arguably proves he means business more than any other change ND has experienced to date. Notre Dame has taken steps to directly challenge the SEC’s power.
Penn State head coach James Franklin fired the first warning shot when it was announced the Nittany Lions would hold a satellite football camp on Georgia State’s campus in Atlanta on June 10th of this year.
“The Big Ten and the NCAA allow you to do these things,” Franklin said to a host of reporters in defense of his Southern invasion. Franklin, a former SEC coach at Vanderbilt, realizes the importance of Southern-rich talent and is seeking creative ways to establish connections.
NCAA rules state all football camps must be held in-state, though, should they extend beyond state boundaries, a camp cannot be held beyond 50 miles of campus. However, no NCAA rule exists denying a coach the right to be a guest coach at another university’s camp. If Georgia State extends an invitation to James Franklin and the rest of Penn State’s staff to be guest coaches at a Georgia State camp, no current NCAA rules are violated.
Just as the college football world was beginning to digest and unpack Penn State’s strategic recruiting move, Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports dropped a bombshell by announcing Notre Dame will hold a satellite football camp at Georgia State in 2015 but will take it a step further, as Notre Dame is considering additional satellite camps in locations such as Dallas, Orlando and Los Angeles, arch-rival USC’s very backyard.
Trent Miles, head coach of Georgia State and former Notre Dame assistant coach, confirmed Wiltfong’s report to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
“I talked to Notre Dame, and it was a mutual thing – they thought it was a great idea, and they’ve been recruiting Georgia,” Miles told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “I’m hearing that the SEC isn’t really happy but I’m worried about us at Georgia State. I’m only concerned about Georgia State, and I have close ties to Notre Dame. If I can do something to help Notre Dame, I will.”
Notre Dame’s satellite camp in Atlanta would entail Georgia State inviting some of the Peach State’s very best upcoming talent. High school recruits in Georgia would be able to be coached by Notre Dame’s staff while ND’s coaches would have the opportunity to have face-to-face contact with recruits who may not normally be able to make their way to South Bend for a visit.
Notre Dame and Penn State’s relationship with Georgia State has infuriated the SEC. Though no NCAA rule currently prohibits a guest coaching arrangement, the SEC has banned the practice, denying SEC coaches an opportunity to return the favor.
“The rule says that everybody’s camp should be [at] their own institution, so it’s basically people finding a way around the rule. We think the rule was set for a reason, and it ought to stay that way,” said Georgia head coach, Mark Richt.
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze echoed similar sentiments at an SEC meeting in Destin, Fla. “Certainly I don’t particularly want another school in a BCS conference coming into our state and running a camp, so we would like to see our rule be a national rule.”
There is a reason why SEC coaches are calling for satellite camps to be banned nationally instead of taking the path of least resistance and repealing the SEC’s ban prohibiting satellite camps. The SEC has far less to gain by earning the right to set up guest coaching arrangements in the Midwest, and it’s the exact same reason why Notre Dame jumped at the chance to partner with the ACC: the South is the future of football.
In the 16 years of the BCS’ existence, 14 of the crowned national champions were universities below the Mason-Dixon line. The SEC’s run of seven consecutive national championships was just a symptom of something larger, and that is the emergence of the South as the lone superpower in college football. And it’s the reason why Brian Kelly and Notre Dame have battled fiercely to increase the Fighting Irish’s Southern recruiting presence. Between the 2011-2014 recruiting classes, Texas and Florida topped Notre Dame’s list of states with the most signed recruits, with only Ohio besting both. And as of March 2014, recruits from the states of Florida, Texas, Georgia and Louisiana were among the most offered by Notre Dame for the current recruiting cycle. It’s no coincidence that Kelly dispatched defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder to Georgia to recruit during the spring evaluation period with VanGorder’s job stints at the University of Georgia and the Atlanta Falcons.
During the recruiting class of 2014, 61% of the recruits listed within the Rivals 250 resided in the South. It explains perfectly why the SEC would never find setting up satellite camps in the Midwest as lucrative as Notre Dame’s deal with Georgia State, and why the SEC would much rather have the practice outlawed nationally than having the ban lifted within their own conference.
Notre Dame chasing Southern talent – and rather successfully – has been the norm since Brian Kelly’s arrival in South Bend. What’s surprising is Notre Dame’s outwardly aggressive approach to get access to that talent. From the Fighting Irish’s standpoint, if the SEC’s feathers are ruffled, they must be doing something right.
Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles, including an appearance on MSNBC as a sports contributor. He talks football 24 hours a day, much to the chagrin of his fiancée. Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.