Ban on satellite camps huts Texas Tech football more than its rivals

Dec 29, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders head coach Kliff Kingsbury looks up at the clock against the LSU Tigers in the second half at NRG Stadium. The Tigers won 56-27. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 29, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders head coach Kliff Kingsbury looks up at the clock against the LSU Tigers in the second half at NRG Stadium. The Tigers won 56-27. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

The NCAA ban on satellite football camps is a knee-jerk reaction to a problem that the sport’s top brass have not fully thought out. Now, mid-level programs like the Texas Tech football will be put at a significant recruiting disadvantage.

By the time one drives from Dallas to Lubbock your infant could be talking in two-word sequences. Drive there from Houston and your infant could be ready to enroll at Texas Tech when you arrive. And that is why satellite football camps have become so important to the Texas Tech football program.

But now the NCAA has banned all satellite camps making geographically isolated schools and underprivileged high school football athletes suffer them most.

Since the latter years of the Mike Leach tenure, Texas Tech has been using satellite camps, where the football staff holds workouts around the state in centralized locations to evaluate talent. By doing so, Texas Tech is able to take the program to parts of the state rich in talent while allowing a greater number of interested players meet and impress the staff.

Many of those players would not be able to make a random trip to Lubbock because it takes the vast majority of the state almost an entire day to drive up to the Caprock. Meanwhile, rival schools like Baylor, Texas, and TCU, which are located within or near major population areas will not feel the effects of this ban nearly as much.

Now, schools must hold any football activities at university owned facilities meaning that if Texas Tech wants to meet and evaluate or work out high school prospects in something akin a mini NFL combine, that must happen in Lubbock. Players from east, southeast or southern Texas must make the pilgrimage to Lubbock just to be seen by the Red Raider coaches.

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Thus, what could be an alternative if a player and his family does not have the means to travel eight hours and stay in a hotel in Lubbock? That same player, say one from east Texas, could make it to Waco, Ft. Worth, College Station or even Austin and back home in a day.

A large number of players on the current football roster were offered scholarships or jumped onto the Texas Tech radar at these satellite camps. For example, redshirt freshman defensive end Lonzell Gillmore from Spring, TX caught the attention of Red Raider coaches at a Houston area camp and now he is expected to be an important member of the 2016 defensive line.

Would he be a Red Raider were it not for that satellite camp? It is hard to say but the odds would be much lower.

Texas Tech football has developed a policy of not offering a scholarship to a player unless the coaching staff has seen him perform in person. Now, Kliff Kingsbury and his staff may have to change that practice.

Satellite camps became an issue when Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh starting holding them outside of his school’s home state, invading the south like Ulysses S. Grant. As SEC schools, especially Alabama, saw Michigan coming to pillage and plunder the talent in the south, they raised a commotion larger than anything since the Civil War.

Of course, the Alabama head coach Nick Saban was smug in response to questions on the issue.

"“I’m really not even thinking that it has that much value,” Saban said. “What would be a more interesting question for you to research — and I can’t answer this — the teams that have done them, what value does it serve? How many players did they get? They had some players commit to them and some of those players decommitted, and I know they even wanted to drop some of those players when they found out they could get better players.”"

That is an easy stance for the coach of the top program in the nation to take. Blueblood programs like Alabama, Florida State, Michigan, Southern California or LSU (just to name a few) do not need satellite camps to find talent because high school football players from around the nation line up at the doors of these schools’ facilities just to give their game footage to these coaching staffs.

But for programs trying to ascend to the next level, programs like Texas Tech football, this ruling feels as if the NCAA is caving to one of the biggest bullies in the sandbox (Saban) at the expense of mid-level programs. As usual in college football, the rich continue to hoard their wealth by any means necessary to the detriment of others.

Some are trying to spin this ruling in a positive light noting that Oklahoma State and OU will not be able to come into Texas and continue to hold camps, which is true. But consider the fact that both schools are closer to Dallas than is Lubbock and that a school like LSU is about five hours closer to Houston than is Texas Tech and you can see that this ruling will impact the Red Raiders far more than it will most schools against which Texas Tech recruits.

But this is how the recruiting game (possibly the dirtiest game in sports) is going to be played  Texas Tech football must adjust. Since 1923, Texas Tech University has had to overcome challenges that other schools have not had to face and this ban on satellite camps is just another hurdle for the school.

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If we’ve learned anything in the past 93 years, it’s that nothing is going to stop Texas Tech from being successful. We must trust in Kingsbury and his staff to ensure that remains true in this instance as well.