The great satellite camp debate appears to be far from over

IRVING, Texas — In the latest twist in the controversial NCAA satellite camp debate, one power conference commissioner said Wednesday that his league mistakenly voted against them.

On April 8, four of the five power conferences (all but the Big Ten) and six of the 10 FBS leagues passed a measure prohibiting football coaches from conducting or working at summer camps outside of their own practice facilities. The ACC and SEC both had proposed such a ban, but the ACC’s more restrictive version passed.

Speaking to reporters after Wednesday’s annual College Football Playoff meetings, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said that UCLA AD Dan Guerrero, the league’s representative on the NCAA Division I Council, “did not vote the way he was supposed to.” Echoing recent comments from outspoken Washington State coach Mike Leach, Scott said 11 of the league’s 12 schools “wanted this studied more comprehensively, but in the meantime, we prefer the status quo, which for us allows coaches to attend camps in other markets.”

Scott said league rules required Guerrero to abide by a “directed vote” that reflected its members’ consensus. “It’s still not perfectly clear how that happened,” said Scott, who said he’s spoken with Guerrero. “… I don’t think anything like this has happened before.”

There’s a lot of opposition to what’s been done. That’s never a good thing.

Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt

However, in an April 13 email obtained by FOX Sports later Wednesday night, Guerrero indicates he was trying to protect the conference from being at a competitive disadvantage if the SEC proposal passed, so instead he voted to approve the ACC’s proposal (2015-59), which came up first.

At issue for Guerrero with the SEC proposal: other programs would be permitted to hold camps within 50 miles while the Pac-12 would be prevented from doing that by their own conference rule, keeping institutional camps on campus.

"Prior to these meetings, I had extensive conversations with Pac-12 representatives in regard to the Conference’s position on a number of legislative proposals — the ‘satellite camp’ proposals included,” Guerrero wrote to his Pac-12 colleagues. “With an 0–11–1 vote cast by the Pac-12 Council, a vote to oppose [both] proposals was the charge with the ultimate goal to refer the legislation [back] to the Football Oversight Committee (FOC). 

"Going into the meetings, it was the feeling of many members of the D1 Council that these proposals would be tabled at the request of the FOC, thereby rendering both of these proposals moot, and keeping the current rule relative to ‘satellite camps’ unchanged. In fact this was the preferred outcome by our Conference as indicated in the preparatory materials I received prior to the meeting. 

"When this did not happen … I made the call to support [the ACC’s version], which was the preference of the two options."

Greg Sankey

In the wake of Scott’s comments Wednesday, the unwieldy satellite debate just spiraled into an even more awkward direction given that the Pac-12 commissioner didn’t provide much context, and that is likely not going to sit well within his conference. 

Numerous coaches and ADs from conferences that voted against the ban have voiced their displeasure over the past couple of weeks, leading to speculation that the Division I Board of Directors might hold off approving the measure on April 28. NCAA executive Oliver Luck indicated as much at a recent speaking engagement.

“There’s a lot of opposition to what’s been done,” said Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt, whose conference, the Big 12, also voted for the ban. “That’s never a good thing.

Hocutt said his school, which usually hosts camps across Texas, supported the SEC’s version of the legislation, which would have still allowed satellite camps within one’s own state or, if across a border, within a 50-mile radius. The ACC’s more restrictive version ultimately passed.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, whose conference is widely considered to have led the charge against satellite camps, fired back at critics of the legislation to reporters here Wednesday.

“What’s caught me by surprise is the notion that there’s a lot of name-calling and finger-pointing,” he said. “It’s not a healthy byproduct of the legislative process.”

Sankey objected to the common depiction that the SEC pushed for a ban to protect its own geographic recruiting turf from coaches like Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh. “That’s a red herring,” Sankey said. Instead, he feels the NCAA needed to push back against satellite camps to avoid football recruiting to “go the way of basketball recruiting, where summer camps take on more importance than the scholastic environment.

“We’ve been clear for a year that this needed to change.”

The NCAA Board of Directors will vote whether to ratify the ban on April 28. Given the amount of backlash — and given that apparently one conference voted against its own wishes — it seems increasingly likely they will either table the rule or send it back to the drawing board.

The SEC for one would not be pleased if that occurs.

“The Council’s action was very appropriate,” Sankey said. “I hope the Board trusts the Council to take action.”