Last month, one of the hottest topics in college football became the relatively new practice of Northern-based coaches working Southern-based summer camps as "guest" instructors. Hey, it's the offseason, what else were folks going to grouse about?
Several years ago, the NCAA penned a rule banning schools from holding summer camps out of their own backyard. It was the Greg Schiano rule, as the then-Rutgers coach had brilliantly begun to host Scarlet Knight summer camps in talent-rich South Florida. Schiano had served as Miami's defensive coordinator prior to taking over at Rutgers. (Forget the Buccaneers mess, some school with an opening would be wise to hire that guy this coming offseason.)
With the Schiano rule in place, more and more coaches have been attending camps run by other schools as "guest" coaches, tutors and instructors. And what camps are drawing the biggest names? Those in the South. And who was the coach at the center of this summer's mini-controversy? Ex-Vanderbilt and current Penn State coach James Franklin. Obviously, the former Commodore leader knows what kind of talent can be found in the state of Georgia, thus his attendance at a summer camp run by Georgia State University in Atlanta.
With Franklin's appearance making headlines, the SEC's coaches growled a bit during the league's spring meetings in Destin, pushing for Mike Slive and the conference to take the issue up at the NCAA level. Southern coaches obviously don't want coaches from less talent-fertile zones carpetbagging their way past the Mason-Dixon line and dipping their grubby little fingers into a honey pot that SEC coaches want to keep all to themselves.
But even if the NCAA did view this issue in the same way it viewed Schiano's idea and even if the NCAA did kibosh the "guest" instructor practice, there's still more than one way to skin a cat. Enter another ex-SEC coach -- Bobby Petrino.
The former Arkansas coach who's now back at Louisville -- after a quick one-year stop at Western Kentucky -- has taken in three ex-SEC players as transfers this offseason alone. Only on the job since January, Petrino has welcomed former Georgia defensive backs Josh Harvey-Clemons and Shaq Wiggins as well as former Texas A&M receiver JaQuay Williams to his Cardinal program. All three of those players are former 4-star athletes out of high school and all three are from the state of Georgia.
"We left some scholarships available so we could go through spring ball, evaluate the kids that were here and see what our specific needs were not only for this upcoming year, but for the years to come," Petrino recently said. "We are just working hard at getting our best roster put together."
Putting it together with hotshot athletes from the Deep South is a good way of doing it. Whether coaches are trying to make inroads with Southern high schoolers -- as Penn State's Franklin is doing -- or checking the internet for available SEC transfers and dismissals -- as Louisville's Petrino is doing -- the nation's recruiting eyes are turning more often toward SEC territory. With a population shift from the Rust Belt states to the Southern states underway, the SEC's recruiting pool continues to deepen.
Just ask Ohio State's Urban Meyer. Since moving from Gainesville to Columbus in 2012 he's signed four players from Florida, four from Georgia and one from South Carolina. He already has another Sunshine State commit for 2015 as well.
You might say: Once a coach has recruited Southern, he just can't settle for another'n.