Jim Harbaugh’s Latest Stunt Is Pissing Everyone Off, But Is It Against NCAA Rules?

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Nice Move

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Like a forest fire, the incessant annoyance that is Jim Harbaugh continues to rage. Now, Harbaugh and his band of merry assistants are in the midst of a month-long “satellite camp” circuit across the continental United States, stretching as far as Hawaii and even Australia.

According to Harbaugh, these “camps” are designed to instruct young athletes on how to better their game while providing valuable life lessons and showcasing talent to a litany of schools unlikely to have noticed them otherwise. Helping a largely under-privileged talent base secure scholarships they might not have had — and giving kids a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend time with one of the most prominent coaches in the sport — sounds noble, right?

Depends who you ask. The Harbaugh narrative leaves out a few details of relative importance. First, the locations of many of the aforementioned camps just happen to be the high schools of some of the most sought-after recruits in the country. Coincidence? The SEC sure doesn’t think so, with Alabama’s Nick Saban leading a Southern uprising against the Northern invaders that’s resembling a “Civil War” of football.

Saban is not alone in his disdain, with South Carolina’s Will “3-9” Muschamp, Mississippi’s Hugh “Money Bags” Freeze, and Tennessee’s Butch “About to be Fired” Jones joining the speeding bandwagon of Harbaugh hatred. According to the SEC, this is nothing more than a veiled recruiting ploy, allowing Harbaugh and his staff unprecedented access to top recruits in the backyard of the Southern giants.

Perhaps corroborating the SEC’s assertion, Harbaugh has scheduled camps in every one of the top 10 4/5 star recruit-producing states in the country. The bottom 8 (both Dakotas, Idaho, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Delaware, Vermont, and Rhode Island) combined for a total of zero scheduled camps.

There is still some question, however, as to the practical effects of the camps themselves. Last year, Harbaugh secured 5 commitments during his “Summer Swarm” tour, but rescinded or “ghosted” all of the recruits prior to signing day, as Michigan’s strong season incited interest amongst higher-rated prospects.

In New Jersey, however, Michigan secured 4 of the state’s 5 highest rated players, including the #1 overall player in the nation: defensive tackle Rashan Gary. Gary, out of Paramus Catholic in Central Jersey, did not participate in a Michigan-sponsored satellite camp. He did, however, attend two last summer as a spectator. In perhaps an even shrewder move, Harbaugh hired former Paramus Head Coach and close friend of the Gary family, Chris Partridge, as “recruiting coordinator.” After one season and the Gary commitment, Partridge was promoted to linebackers coach.

To combat the camps, local schools such as Rutgers have created their own as a sort of counter-programming for the maniac from Michigan. Even Nick Saban has gotten in on the action, officially registering Alabama for 4 of the upcoming Michigan camps, though it is unclear if Saban himself will attend.

In fairness to Harbaugh, he has held steadfastly to his asserted allowance of any and all colleges to participate in his camps. Recently, in Atlanta, Harbaugh welcomed new Georgia Coach Kirby Smart, amongst others, while co-hosting the camps with several division one schools along the way. In South Florida, for instance, 24 total colleges ranging from Division I to Division III were in attendance, as well as almost 800 total campers.

The NCAA is seemingly as enthused as the SEC when it comes to the jet setter in maize and blue. Having eliminated the camps entirely this year, only to have the ban repealed, the NCAA has now passed several “Harbaugh Rules” just this month, in an attempt at maintaining separation between Harbaugh and recruits. One, for instance, forbids Harbaugh or any coach from signing an autograph for a camper or their family.

Overall, there are obvious merits to both sides. For the SEC, it’s like sitting atop a gold mine but allowing a rival company to survey your resources — just seems idiotic. The South is the highest-producing region of college and NFL talent, with Florida alone sending more kids to college each year on football scholarships than the entire Northeast (Jersey not included) combined.

But, aside from the fallacy that is Harbaugh’s “this is not at all recruiting related” claims, maybe these camps really do help kids find their way to an education. Last year, it is undisputed that over 100 campers from around the country secured financial aid to play football, from the highest to the lowest levels. This, without question, is a good thing.
In an era in which players are openly admitting to receiving aid in the form of cash, cars, women, and endless “gifts,” and where the nightmare that is Baylor and all stories like it are becoming more and more common, the NCAA has far bigger issues to crack down on than the hyperactive lunatic in Ann Arbor. Harbaugh, though skating on thin ice, should be allowed to continue this highly controversial practice until he burns out, like the Tasmanian devil of irritation he is.

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