Notre Dame AD: NCAA satellite camp ban would face legal scrutiny

IRVING, Texas — The SEC and ACC want a national rule preventing college football coaches from staging satellite camps far off campus. Nick Saban is complaining that satellite camps are “ridiculous.” NCAA president Mark Emmert says the issue will be at the top of the list for the NCAA’s Football Oversight Committee.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick offers some cautionary advice to the NCAA: Good luck defending yourself against another antitrust lawsuit.

“The NCAA does not have a very good track record of limiting, without losing an antitrust lawsuit, economic opportunities for coaches,” Swarbrick said Tuesday at the College Football Playoff meetings. “So they should be treading very lightly. The perception is these are school opportunities. A lot of these are coach opportunities purely. Imagine a rule that said, as was introduced years ago, coaches couldn’t do national televised advertising because it created a recruiting advantage. … I wouldn’t want to defend those lawsuits.”

In 2005, there was talk of an NCAA rule to address Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski appearing on television commercials, especially his starring role in an American Express ad. The complaint: It was an unfair recruiting pitch to recruits and parents. As then-NCAA president Myles Brand said at the time about Krzyzewski’s appearances, “Even if we had rules, they might be illegal under antitrust issues.”

Back in 1991, the NCAA adopted a restricted-earnings rule that capped salaries for assistants in various sports at $12,000 for the academic year and $4,000 for the summer. Entry-level coaches sued and got a $54.5 million settlement in 1999.

In the case of satellite camps, NCAA rules state that football programs can host camps on their campus, inside their state or within a 50-mile radius of campus. The SEC and ACC don’t follow the NCAA provision that allows coaches to “guest coach” at another school’s camp to get around the 50-mile radius.

Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly and Penn State’s James Franklin are among the coaches who have held satellite camps in recent years. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh is taking the practice to a new level this summer by hitting nine satellite camps in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Alabama, Florida, Texas, California and Michigan.

“Camps have been in the past a challenging thing to monitor and keep up with and we’ve been very successful in our league of doing that so let’s don’t create a new paradigm for everybody,” Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said Tuesday. “Plus our league has done pretty well as far as recruiting goes as it is. It seems to benefit some schools that may be in the past had a history of success and now don’t so they’re trying to grow their brand a little bit more. For us, we like where we are.”

Jacobs said part of the SEC’s concern is SEC schools could tread “on each other’s turf” with camps. In other words, Gus Malzahn may not go to a Big Ten state for a camp, but he could compete with SEC coaches in an SEC state over satellite camps.

The SEC will discuss at its spring meetings next month how to handle satellite camps if a national rule doesn’t restrict where coaches can work. Swarbrick’s point: Conferences right now still have the freedom to let their coaches do these camps or not.

“From my perspective, so much of the decisions we make and so much of what we do is designed to promote our institution nationally,” Swarbrick said. “The way we schedule is about that, maintaining football independence is about that, our approach to television is about that. If Brian is interested in doing (satellite camps), I’m all for it because it does exactly that same thing. I’ve never subscribed to some recruiting advantage attached to it.”

Last week, Harbaugh issued an open invitation to any coach that wants to participate in Michigan’s camp in June. Are any SEC coaches taking up the offer?

“Mine’s not,” Jacobs said, laughing.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Jon Solomon is CBS Sports's national college football writer. A former Alabama resident, he now lives in Maryland and also writes extensively on NCAA topics. Jon previously worked at The Birmingham News,... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories