James Franklin spent the past three seasons building his brand as a rising SEC star. The former Vanderbilt head coach returns to familiar territory this summer as the face of Penn State football and his old conference contemporaries aren't exactly thrilled.
"I don't know how Penn State relates to Georgia State football camp," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze told ESPN.com.
Georgia State, located in Atlanta, will host a camp June 10, when Franklin and his Nittany Lions staff are slated to serve as guest coaches. The traveling tour continues June 11, when the group again offers instruction at Stetson University, a school located along fertile Florida recruiting grounds.
Stetson is situated between Orlando and Daytona Beach, approximately 30 miles away from both talent-laden areas. That's a long way from Happy Valley.
Franklin views it as an opportunity to expand the collegiate horizons of players who aren't necessarily destined to visit central Pennsylvania. He explained the logic of hitting the road to StateCollege.com's Ben Jones earlier this month:
We wanted to not only have camps on our campus -- which we're going to have a bunch of them -- but also be able to maybe take the Penn State brand and be able to take it to part of the country [where] maybe young men and families wouldn't be able to make it to our place. And I'm fired up about it.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive is fired up in a rather different manner.
"It's that kind of thing that gets us to think about our rules," Slive told ESPN.com. "They [SEC coaches] like our rule; they don't like the so-called satellite camps. They see it as a loophole and asked us to see what we can do about that."
He's referring to an SEC rule that prohibits coaches from serving as guest instructors at any camp more than 50 miles from their home campus. This mandate doesn't coincide with NCAA rules at large.
Last decade, the NCAA approved Rule 188.8.131.52, which prevents coaches from holding camps anywhere beyond state borders that is further than 50 miles away from their school.
There was a time programs used to effectively implement such camps. Former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano—who previously worked as defensive coordinator at Miami—previously planned youth camps in South Florida.
He was hardly alone in such endeavors. But those days are done, concluding seven years ago when Rule 184.108.40.206 passed.
So how will Franklin get away with providing one-on-one instruction to promising young players in Florida and Georgia next month?
Penn State isn't holding the camp. Franklin and his staff are guests of the host programs, which stand to see a bump in camp participation by plastering a marquee coaching name on the brochure.
"We're going to go wherever we have to go to find players," Franklin said.
As the rule stands now, he's very much allowed to follow that ambition deep into SEC country.
“We’re all going to do what you’d let us," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops told ESPN.com (h/t StateCollege.com). "Our point is where does it end?...We’d prefer to tighten up that loophole to not allow you to do camps off your campus."
As ESPN reporters Brett McMurphy and Edward Aschoff point out, Penn State isn't an outlier here.
Oklahoma State's staff will spend time at camps in San Antonio and Dallas. Iowa coaches plan to be part of the action at a Lake Forest College camp in Chicago. Neither team is holding the events and they're just two of several squads that will follow suit this summer.
Meanwhile, SEC coaches continue to scratch their heads while abiding a self-imposed rule.
"I wish it was a national rule," Freeze said. "I don't particularly want another school in a BCS conference coming into our state and running a camp."
While some coaches would prefer SEC regulations be adopted nationwide, others just want an even playing field one way or another when it comes to out-of-state camp policy. Count Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin among them.
“It would be beneficial for everybody, if everybody could do that, or nobody should do it,” Sumlin said.
For now, SEC coaches can only sit idle—within 50 miles from home turf—as foreign football powers like Penn State swoop in and assist at camps that could potentially set the stage for future recruiting success. At the very least, a coach like Franklin stands to gain increased name recognition in areas that would otherwise remain fairly oblivious to a program more than 1,000 miles away.
Don't you think Les Miles could find a Division III school to join forces with for a camp in Michigan? Couldn't you see Nick Saban spending a couple days as a celebrity guest coach at different destinations in Texas?
Unless the SEC loosens the leash on its own football leaders or the NCAA tightens things up on a national level, out-of-conference coaches will happily continue to take advantage of "loopholes". Staffs will always take advantage of permissible recruiting opportunities until the NCAA tells them to cut it out.
Regardless of any SEC uproar, James Franklin is heading south for summer camp and there's nothing you can do to stop him.
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