SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said Tuesday the conference has petitioned the NCAA to block Michigan from holding spring practices in Florida.
“Our primary reaction [is] that, in the face of the time-demand conversations, we've got one program taking what has been 'free time' away,” Sankey said, per Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com. “Let's draw a line and say, ‘That's not appropriate.'"
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh announced last week he plans for the Wolverines to practice at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, from Feb. 27 to March 6.
The SEC's push to prevent Michigan from holding practices stems from a competitive-balance issue. As noted by Dodd, spring break has traditionally been counted as a week where student-athletes are allowed to be free from the confines of football practices.
“This seems completely counter to the dialogue,” Sankey said. “We have work to do on [giving athletes a] day off. We have work to do on, how do you provide a postseason break? It seems where this is one where reasonable people could say we just shouldn't be in this space.”
Of course, there is likely an underlying ulterior motive here. Harbaugh has already ruffled feathers in SEC and ACC offices by hosting satellite camps in areas that are typically southern hotbeds for recruiting. The conferences have filed appeals that look to ban such appearances, which would ultimately help member schools keep those players in house.
Harbaugh's recruiting practices as a whole have been under a microscope since his arrival in Ann Arbor. He's taken approaches with some recruits that straddle the line between good fun and strange, including a slumber party with 2016 No. 1 kicker Quinn Nordin and a "Netflix and Chill" session with 4-star defensive end Connor Murphy, per 247Sports' composite rankings. Murphy ultimately signed with USC, but Harbaugh's efforts wound up flipping Nordin from Penn State to Michigan.
“I think the kids have taken to it very well,” Scout.com analyst Allen Trieu said of Harbaugh's tactics, per Chris Johnson of Sports Illustrated. “It certainly has upped the level of recruiting for those kids in terms of him really showing that he’s going to spend some extra time and take some extra time with these guys.”
These spring practices would ultimately carve out another chance for Harbaugh to differentiate himself to young players. The IMG Academy has traditionally offered a treasure trove of elite prep talent; four of the nation's top 50 players in the 2017 class, including No. 1 prospect Dylan Moses, hail from the Bradenton school, per 247Sports.
Even as a short stop, the IMG practices would be an opportunity for those young players to see how Harbaugh operates firsthand. It's a tactically brilliant move, but one would understand why it's rankling SEC coaches.
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