Satellite camps open new avenues for Syracuse football to recruit, extend brand
Marisa Rother | Head Illustrator
NEW YORK — It seemed like just another Syracuse football practice. SU apparel, such as the gray T-shirts with “Syracuse Orange” written in block letters, was abundant. Head coach Dino Babers stood off to the side of the field with his hands folded across his chest. Co-offensive coordinator Sean Lewis was at the center with a whistle as he conducted warm-up drills.
Outside of that, things were different. A high school football field that doubled as a baseball field replaced the Ensley Athletic Center. Bodegas and other small businesses were a few blocks down instead of the Women’s Building and the road up to the Mount. The F train ran by the practice every couple of minutes rather than the Centro buses.
“It’s all about development and getting our brand out there,” Babers said.
On June 11, about 150 high school football players showed up to the first-ever satellite camp hosted by SU in Brooklyn, New York.
Because of changes in the college football landscape, Syracuse coaches can host satellite camps of their own and assist in others. These camps allow the coaches to see recruits in person. For SU, it helps the program’s brand outside of Central New York. It was an effective tool for the Orange all summer and has impressed some recruits.
Satellite camps are when coaches from Division I schools, such as Syracuse, go and coach camps for high school recruits at places outside of their respective campuses.
They had been banned in the Atlantic Coast Conference. On April 8, the NCAA Division I Council announced a nationwide ban on the camps. On April 28, the NCAA Board of Directors overturned that decision, which eventually led to the ACC dropping its conference ban.
Before the change, NCAA rules mandated that D-I programs could not host camps anywhere outside of a 50-mile radius of their respective campuses. There have not been rules that prohibit the coaches of those schools from acting as guests in another school’s (either high school or smaller college) camp.
At his introductory press conference, Babers stressed that he would focus on recruiting in the Northeast more, and that factored into his decision of where to host the camp.
“We weren’t going to have my first camp outside the state of New York,” Babers said. “That’s how much it meant to me.”
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Recruits have taken advantage of these camps. A camp at Paramus Catholic (New Jersey) High School, which was hosted by Michigan and also had coaches from 40 other schools, Syracuse included, drew 650 players.
For reasons ranging from exposure to financial convenience, recruits have been raving about the camps.
“For some kids it’s hard to drive out to each camp in different states, that’s a lot of money for some people,” said four-star Class of 2018 defensive end Tyreke Smith. “When they have satellite camps where multiple schools can come to one camp in the area that the kids are, that makes it a lot easier.”
Smith attended the Raw Talent U camp, which was hosted at Cleveland Heights (Ohio) High School and headlined by Ohio State and Michigan. Smith picked up 13 offers, including one from Syracuse, even though he hadn’t played football since the seventh grade.
Former NFL linebacker Mac Stephens coaches Cleveland Heights and said he encouraged all his kids, freshman through seniors, to attend the camp when he found out about it.
Stephens said that he thinks the camps are great for high school recruits and that the only drawback on them is the price.
“I think especially in the first few weeks of the high school football seasons, let the kids focus on school,” Stephens said. “They’re trying to get comfortable in their high school football seasons … come Sept. 1 it’s just a free-for-all.”
In the ACC’s rationale submitted to the NCAA about why satellite camps should be banned, the conference argued that “many of these non-institutional camps are…used for access to prospects at a time that is not an active off-campus recruiting period.”
Still, recruits and coaches like Stephens are praising the extra work and teaching that D-I programs are providing.
Class of 2018 wide receiver Sean Ryan, from Erasmus Hall (New York) High School — the same high school that hosted the Brooklyn satellite camp — lauded the SU coaching staff. He also received a scholarship offer after the camp.
Ryan said that his head coach, Danny Landberg, encouraged all his players to attend the camp. Ryan said the main reason he went was to improve his skills and meet the SU coaches, but he knew going in that he’d be able to come away with a scholarship offer if he put on a good performance.
Class of 2018 and Christ the King (New York) High School product Jarrett Paul also attended the Brooklyn camp and said that his biggest takeaway was getting to formally meet his two recruiters, SU assistant coaches Mike Hart and Nick Monroe.
"Spread love…It's the Brooklyn (and 'Cuse) way!"https://t.co/EaUkE3NBVd
— Dino Babers (@CoachBabersCuse) May 13, 2016
It meant a lot to Ryan and Paul that Syracuse would come host its inaugural camp in New York City, which isn’t typically known as a hotbed for college football players.
“It shows me that their focus is first in New York,” Paul said. “I really liked Syracuse a lot because I’m a New York City kid and, you play for Syracuse you’re basically representing your state.”
There were Orange coaches at a number of different camps this summer, but the one in Brooklyn was the only one that Syracuse headlined and hosted.
Ryan attended two other camps. Ohio State was the biggest school and hosted the biggest camp of the three he attended, and the other was headlined by Temple. He felt he got the best experience out of the SU camp because of the dedication the coaching staff put in to training him.
It shows me that their focus is first in New York. I really liked Syracuse a lot because I’m a New York City kid and, you play for Syracuse you’re basically representing your state.Jarrett Paul
“A lot of camps, they give you a lot of drills and they just want to see your athleticism,” Ryan said. “At Syracuse camp, they were really training us, training us to be elite receivers.”
The only other camp Paul attended was the one at Paramus Catholic. He said that while SU coaches were present at both camps, he didn’t really get a feel for the Orange’s brand at that camp.
“It was mostly Michigan,” Paul said in terms of which school stood out. “Because you know you had (head coach Jim) Harbaugh, he’s at the camp running around doing a bunch of wild stuff.”
To that end, Stephens stressed that it’s not so much the brand of the bigger schools that matter as much the relationships that D-I coaches manage to build with recruits and high school coaches. Still, he admitted that schools such as Ohio State, especially in Cleveland, stick out over the rest.
The camps’ influence has a limit. Ryan, Smith and Paul each said that attending them doesn’t make up for taking visits to schools they’re interested in. Overall, it’s just one of many factors that go into a commitment decision.
Because of the back-and-forth nature of how these camps got allowed, their future is somewhat murky. The ACC, like other conferences, has been evaluating satellite camps.
But Babers isn’t worried about that. He sees the value these camps are bringing to his program and recruits and has bigger pictures for the future.
“When we do our camps by ourselves they’re different than some of the other things you guys see,” Babers said. “I’m telling you right now, this camp will grow and grow and grow and the ability will get better and better and better.”
Published on September 7, 2016 at 12:44 am