Satellite Camps Back On

Last week I was up in arms after hearing that the NCAA voted to ban satellite camps. Now a week later my hope has been restored. The NCAA board of directors met Thursday and decided to rescind the original April 8 vote.

The original ruling was upsetting for I knew the consequences it would have on football players hoping to play at the collegiate level. I don’t know this because I was a player myself. I know this because I grew up with brothers — three brothers by blood and a whole lot more by association. I have witnessed time and time again the hardships families go through trying to help their sons reach their goals. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter where in the country you are from. The biggest obstacle for players trying to reach the collegiate level is money.

When one camp costing upward of $200, not including travel and the expenses for family members that need to tag along, the idea of attending more than one camp can become impossible.

Players at satellite camps have the opportunity to be seen by multiple college coaches and recruiters in one visit and often for less money. Without satellite camps, I saw the dreams of hundreds of players become more out of reach. Luckily with Thursday’s decision, players and parents can rest easy. This year will run like years past.

Along with Thursday’s ruling, the NCAA “hopes for initial recommendations for improving the football recruiting environment.” So NCAA, here are some of my recommendations.

LIMIT NUMBER OF CAMPS

My first suggestion would be to limit the number of camps that college coaches are allowed to attend or host. The banning of satellite camps would hurt the non-power five conferences the most. These programs — including schools on the NCAA Division II and III and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics levelĀ — benefit the most from the ability to attend camps at other universities or third-party camps.

With that being said, I think putting a cap could help the recruiting circuit. The need for satellite camps aren’t as vital for power five conferences. Clearly the SEC and Atlantic Coast Conference didn’t think they were important at all when they put their own conference bans on it previously. So perhaps the cap should be the lowest for the power five schools.

MAKES CAMPS MORE AFFORDABLE

Imagine the players who really want to play at Florida State. They figure out how to pull together a tuition fee of $350. But then they realize that they need an additional $400 because they aren’t from Florida. And then they learn being 15 years old mean a guardian needs to come.

I understand that these players are staying in dorms where they are using electricity and air conditioning. These players need to be fed and campus workers need to be working to make things run smoothly. I understand that coaches need to be paid for being away from their families for an additional four days. But the reality is these camps don’t need $400 a head to run. And for universities like Alabama, Michigan, Florida State, most of the money is going to paying their head coach’s already ridiculously large paycheck.

If the reason behind rescinding the April 8 vote was because the NCAA saw how the decision would hurt athletes and hinder scholarship opportunities, camp tuition fees should be lowered for the exact same reason.

Satellite ban to hurt athletes most

“The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a membership-driven organization dedicated to safeguarding the well-being of student-athletes and equipping them with the skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom and throughout life.”

That is the mission statement of the NCAA, and with its newest ruling that statement has been thrown out the window once again.

The NCAA Division I council met April 8 to vote on an issue that has been of pressing concern through this school year: satellite football camps. A representative from each of the 10 Division I conferences met to vote on whether the camps should be allowed or banned. The verdict — satellite camps will be no more.

This ruling isn’t shutting down third-party camps such as The Manning Passing Academy, but it is forbidding college coaches from attending. The ruling also forbids universities from hosting camps off campus grounds.

Satellite camps are nothing new on the college recruiting circuit, but came under criticism as the University of Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh set up camps throughout the south in his first year as head coach of the Wolverines.

The criticism came from one direction only though, the SEC. The SEC and the Atlantic Coast Conference have implemented their own satellite bans in years past to make sure they weren’t stepping on each others toes. Now feeling threatened by Harbaugh and the potential of other coaches coming into their region, they felt the need to try and enforce their rule on everyone, and they got their way.

The NCAA has been receiving a ton of backlash in regards to the issue, and it should, but it is also not 100 percent at fault. In this case the NCAA is the universities that make it up. The ACC, Big 12, Mountain West, Pacfic-12, SEC, and Sunbelt voted for the camp ban, while the American Conference, Big 10, Conference USA and Mid-American voted against it.

The criticism of satellite camps is that they allow coaches to grab recruits from regions other than their own, but the benefits of them are triple fold.

First off, we all know the top recruits in the country. We know the five-star and the four-star players. Coaches know about them without having to visit their home states and are offering scholarships whether they came to their camp or not. These kids have the ability to go anywhere in the country they choose, whether that’s close-to-home University of Alabama or across-the-country University of Oregon. This ruling doesn’t affect them.

This ruling affects the football players on that three-star level and lower — the players that maybe never even got ranked and the players that can’t afford to visit multiple university camps every year in hopes of being a match.

In years past, when a school like Ohio State hosted a summer camp, Buckeye coaches weren’t the only ones in attendance. There were coaches from the state’s smaller schools such as Toledo and Bowling Green. Out of the hundreds of players that attend an Ohio State camp, maybe a handful are considered future Buckeyes. The ones that aren’t just might be what the MAC programs are looking for. Satellite camps allow these kids to get noticed and to have a chance at a free college education and the opportunity to continue playing the sport they love.

College camps are expensive. If a player wants the chance to be seen by Nick Saban, he’s headed to the University of Alabama football camp, where an overnight tuition is $400. If a player wants the opportunity to become a University of Southern California Trojan, parents are looking at a tuition fee of $350. For a player from out of state, that’s a huge fee for the chance to be seen by one coaching staff.

Third-party camps broke the mold with coaches from multiple institutions in attendance. These third-party camps aren’t much cheaper, some are even more expensive, but they hold a greater possibility for players with coaches from different conferences and divisions taking note.

The ruling isn’t set in stone just yet. On April 28, the NCAA board of directors can adopt or rescind. The board is mainly made up of university presidents and chancellors, allowing each program to place its own vote.

I hope for the sake of football players everywhere that this ruling gets rescinded. I also hope it gets rescinded for the sake of the NCAA, which has continued to lose credibility over the years, and if not I call for a new mission statement:

“The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a membership-driven organization dedicated to money and keeping the money within the universities and coaches’ pockets. The well-being of the athlete only goes as far as making sure they are able to supply that income.”

Dear Kobe

There was always something about that purple and gold. Growing up in a state that has zero professional sports teams, it was a free for all as far as who you wanted to lay claim to. I knew who my dad’s favorite teams were, I knew who my uncle’s favorite teams were, and I just knew who my favorite players were. The first athlete I can remember listing as a role model was Kobe Bryant.

I was 3 years old when Kobe suited up for the first time in a Lakers uniform, and while I don’t personally remember his first game, I cannot remember a time when Kobe wasn’t there.

Now 20 years later, I’m the same age Kobe was when the Lakers won three straight titles.

When Kobe announced his retirement in November 2015, it shocked the world. We had watched Kobe suffer injury after injury the past few seasons and not once did the thought of him not being able to bounce back cross peoples’ minds. Through his letter published on The Players Tribune, Kobe talks about how he came to realize it was time to let go, and it took this season for us fans to realize that, too. As a kid your favorite athletes always seem like superheroes. Nearing 23 I still saw Kobe as invincible. Then again who wouldn’t after seeing him shoot free throws without a tendon that led to a Greek demigod’s demise?

Some people watched Kobe grow up, me, I grew up with him.

Thank you Kobe for giving a little girl who couldn’t fall in love with playing the game a reason to still love it, a reason to want to learn the game, and a reason to want to know it well enough that I could speak intelligently about it with people who played their whole lives.

Thank you Kobe for showing me that being younger doesn’t mean I’m incapable. Seeing you go up against the likes of Michael Jordan and Shaq and not backing down made me believe that age was just a number when I stepped onto the field, the track and the playground.

Thank you Kobe for showing me that being driven doesn’t make me psychotic, or maybe it does, but it’s OK. Seeing glimpses of your maniacal drive to perfect your game, it showed me that I am the only person standing in my way.

Thank you Kobe for providing countless arguments between me and my brothers on who is truly more like Michael Jordan, you or LeBron James. I think the majority of people can agree with me on this one, including M.J. himself.

Thank you Kobe for making me believe that anything is possible, for proving that an 81-point game can happen outside of a video game.

Thank you Kobe for making every time I throw a piece of paper into a trashcan the NBA finals, “KOBE!”

Thank you Kobe for making me a Lakers fan for life.

As I watched Kobe on my TV screen for the last time, I couldn’t help but think of all the hours I spent sitting on couches around the world watching him play. This season was definitely not the season I had in mind for the Black Mamba’s exit from the NBA, but his final game in Staples Center was another example of how he never fails to deliver. Sixty points and single handedly outscoring the Jazz in the final quarter and squashing their playoff hopes, could it have been any better?

“Mamba out.”

Nova’s win defies the 1 percent

Two weeks ago I discovered perhaps the greatest statistic in the entire world. Unfortunately that stat was completely destroyed Monday night with Villanova’s win over North Carolina.

I have secretly always been a North Carolina fan; not a legitimate fan, but when it came to the Duke-North Carolina matchup, I always went for the Tar Heels. What fueled my secret love? Ask my dad about the birth of his only daughter and first child, and he won’t forget to tell you that I was born during a Sweet 16 matchup, after he consistently told my mom it can’t happen. I was born into chaos. My dad and two grandfathers were screaming at the TV when I entered the world. North Carolina and the University of Michigan were playing. It was 1993 and the Tar Heels went on to win the championship.

Two weeks ago, as I was doing Sweet 16 predictions, I delved into history and discovered that the last three times the Tar Heels won March Madness they played their Sweet 16 game on my birthday, March 25. This year North Carolina defeated Indiana on March 25, and well it only seemed right. It was this crazy fact that prompted me to pick the Tar Heels to win it all this year.

Clearly my theory was wrong, but I can’t be upset Villanova destroyed it. Villanova winning it all this year gives hope to those teams that hardly enter the conversation for a national championship. Going into Monday night’s game, four schools had won 12 of the previous 20 national championships — Kentucky, Duke, Connecticut and North Carolina.

March Madness is the only major sporting event that gives the underdogs an equal chance, but it’s still rare to see Cinderella winning it all. There are the teams that have snuck into the inner circle — Syracuse, Michigan State, Kentucky and Kansas — to name a few, but they can’t even call themselves the underdogs anymore.

I can’t say this Villanova team was the typical underdog. The team was No. 1 for part of the season and shattered offensive records as it made its run, but when it came down to it, North Carolina was expected to do what it always does, win.

As I sat on my couch cheering as North Carolina closed the point gap in those final minutes, it was hard to deny that Nova looked like the stronger team throughout the game. So while I was heartbroken when that shot with less than a second by Kris Jenkins swooshed through the net, I couldn’t help but feel happy that the outcome wasn’t so predictable.

TOO EARLY FOR 2017?

Seven months separate us from the start of next year’s basketball season, but that isn’t stopping most from already making their predictions. While I hope it can be another year for the other 99 percent, the current favorite sitting atop headlines is no-shocker here, the Duke Blue Devils. The Atlantic Coast Conference was the dominant conference this year and by the looks of it, it could happen again. With Duke’s Grayson Allen having announced his return and the top two high school prospects heading to Durham in the fall, the Blue Devils will definitely be in the top five when the season kicks off.

Duke seems to be one of the only team not in complete limbo with the NCAA’s new NBA draft rules too. With that said, 2017 is completely up in the air until after that May 25 deadline.

Just Three Games Remain

After three weeks of March Madness, I am still trying to find the words other than completely unpredictable and upset-laden to describe the tournament, let alone the 2016 season.

Week three brought two more upsets to the season. Three of four No. 1 seeds were eliminated, including the overall No. 1 and top candidate to win it all, the Kansas Jayhawks.

Villanova is finally living up to the hype with the win that sent the Jayhawks packing. After struggling the last two years in tournament appearances, the Wildcats have finally proved that they are worthy to be in conversation with the top dogs.

Even though the Sooners were the No. 2 seed in their region, most people predicted them to come out on top over No. 1 Oregon. With the best college basketball player on their roster, Buddy Hield, some believe there is no stopping them.

University of North Carolina is the sole No. 1 seed remaining. The Tar Heels were the closest to a perfect season in 2016, but ended on a 32-6 record. Multiple factors pointed to a potential early sendoff for UNC, but it proved the doubters wrong and is now the favorite to win it all.

The last team in the final four is Syracuse, who after an early season ban barely made the tournament. In no way can the Orange be named this year’s Cinderella, but it is this year’s biggest shocker. Syracuse is only the fourth double seeded team to ever make the Final Four and the only 10th seed to ever make the Final Four.

SOUTH SEMIFINAL: VILLANOVA

I am going to go against the grain with the majority on this matchup. Despite a regular-season loss to Oklahoma by 23 on Dec. 7, 2015, I think the Wildcats have more going for them than the Sooners do.

Villanova is fourth in the nation in 2-point percentage and second in free-throw percentage. The Wildcats are great at forcing turnovers while not giving much up themselves, and they move the ball with ease, averaging an assist on 60 percent of field goals made.

The difference maker in their first matchup was 3 pointers, Villanova was 4-32, and Oklahoma was 14-26. If Villanova can beat Oklahoma in all other areas like it should, shots from beyond the arc aren’t important.

EAST SEMIFINAL: NORTH CAROLINA

I’m taking the current favorites on the East side of the bracket. The Atlantic Coast Conference champion North Carolina was the nation’s preseason No. 1 and it has the chance to end like it started. They’ve beaten every tournament opponent thrown their way by a minimum of 14 points, and I don’t see why they can’t keep that going.

The Tar Heels take the advantage in the paint and on the offensive glass with a deep front court. UNC swept Syracuse in the regular season by breaking the Orange’s 2-3 zone and doing what it does best, feeding the post, dominating the glass and drawing fouls. There is no reason another win shouldn’t be in the books.

The one thing UNC needs to avoid is settling for the 3. In their first two games against Syracuse, the Tar Heels shot for a combined 9 of 41 from beyond the arc. It’s hard to knock down those shots against the No. 13 perimeter defense.

NATIONAL CHAMPION: NORTH CAROLINA