Jim Harbaugh has the SEC folks up in arms again. First, the Michigan coach ruffled feathers by bringing Michigan satellite camps to the Deep South, prompting the SEC and ACC to call for new NCAA rules. Now, Harbaugh's plan to have the Wolverines practice at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, during their spring break has the SEC once again crying foul, this time allegedly over players' time demands.
This issue demands some time from our SEC and Big Ten reporters. Today's Take Two topic is this: Does the SEC have a legitimate beef with Harbaugh's plan to practice in their territory?
Take 1: Edward Aschoff
Listen, I'm all for coaches taking part in satellite camps. Nick Saban going out to sunny Cali to work with some high school prospects isn't the end of the world, and it might just get him closer to his dream of starring along Will Smith in the next summer blockbuster.
And, hey, I'm not totally against the idea of coaches heading to a true spring break location with their players for a week of some football and fun.
But I can see why this could be the start of a very, very windy road for college football. In theory, this sounds awesome. Some kids dealing with cold (maybe snowy) conditions get an all-expenses-paid trip down to Florida for some real sun and maybe a few trips to the beach to venture near -- and into! -- water without fear of hypothermia.
It really does sound wonderful, but do we really want to take away these kids' true vacation time? Is this really a leisure trip, because it sounds like a week used to get away from football and relax mentally and physically is turning into a week of football with some relaxation. These players only get four weeks off a year, and now they'd essentially get three. This is a business trip to a warmer climate. It's football practice near the beach. It's just eating into personal time and freedom away from, well, their jobs -- which everyone needs.
And let's not got it twisted: This is probably 95 percent about recruiting on both sides. Harbaugh wants to get closer to Florida prospects and show other kids that you can get a free trip to the beach if you sign with Michigan. On the other side, the SEC doesn't want folks coming into their territory any more than they already are, so they'll fight this tooth and nail. But Sankey actually did have a point when he said that we are going from trying to give this kids more time off to now cutting into it.
This is practice ... for recruiting purposes. Adding a different location is just putting lipstick on a pig. This is nothing but a recruiting ploy by Harbaugh, and that's fine, but in the end it's just more wear and tear for these college athletes, who probably already don't get enough time away from the sport in general.
Take 2: Brian Bennett
Well, it's no wonder the SEC wants to keep Harbaugh out of Florida. The last time he brought Michigan there, the Wolverines smoked SEC East champion Florida 41-7 at the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. And now he wants to practice there in front of recruits? Of course he's persona non grata in Dixie.
The reason the SEC has fought the Big Ten on satellite camps and now satellite spring practice is obvious. It's the same as the NIMBY syndrome, in which people use all kinds of excuses to justify not wanting someone they perceive as a threat in their neighborhood. The desire to protect your turf is natural, even if it's at times nonsensical. What's the SEC really afraid of here? That league is still dominating recruiting, and it just won another national title. Believe me, it will survive a week of Michigan practice in late February/early March.
The issue of whether players should be forced to practice during their spring break is a convenient cover story for the SEC. I don't think Michigan players would mind getting a free week in Florida. This would become a problem if, say, Arkansas was making its players spend a week in Dallas during spring break or if Purdue went to Biloxi. But the truth is that SEC teams don't need to travel much to recruit, and if Big Ten teams decide to do so on spring break, they're going to go to a nice destination.
But mostly, this is simply a Harbaugh issue. Just like most coaches won't be copying his sleepovers at recruits' houses, very few, if any, schools would invest in these types of lavish spring trips. Ultimately, Harbaugh gets the last laugh by so easily getting under SEC schools' skins -- and duping them into giving him free publicity.