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What is the point of Satellite Camps?

Why do teams do them and what are the benefits?

CFP National Championship presented by AT&T - Alabama v Georgia Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A few times this off-season I’ve written about different time periods in the off-season or recruiting calendar. We’ve looked at what Junior Days are, what the spring evaluation period is, and now we will look at the benefits and reasons behind summer camps. Specifically satellite camps.

Summer Camps

College summer camps have been around for quite a long time. If you grew up going to a high school summer camp while you were in grade school, they function in a very similar way. Players from the surrounding area come in to be taught by the coaches and hopefully get noticed by making a good impression. Coaches get to teach younger players “their way”, which helps to develop players the way they want to. Coaches are able to keep an eye on players from year to year to see if they are worth a scholarship. Though most camp attendees won’t end up playing for the team, it provides a monetary boost for the program.

Traditional camps were always (and still are) held on campus for the college. This comes with pros and cons. You get future recruits on campus seeing the field and facilities and being around the coaches. However, sometimes distance plays a huge role in whether or not a camper is able to attend. Boise State recruits Texas, but the average player will probably look at a Texas school camp before flying to Idaho. And it will be near impossible for Hawaii to get anyone from the mainland to come to their camp. Also, the one camp takes place over one or two days. This creates logistical difficulties and scheduling competitions among teams. If a PAC12 camp and MWC camp occur on the same day, a player may want to go to the PAC12 one in hopes of getting noticed by a bigger school. Plus, a player can only afford or have the time to attend so many camps.

For years, summer camps served a great purpose, but were basically an all or nothing outcome. The player either came to a school’s one camp or they didn’t. This all changed a few years ago with the inclusion of satellite camps.

What are Satellite camps?

Penn State coach James Franklin seemed to have coined the term satellite camps and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh certainly has made the most of them and brought them into the spotlight.

The term simply means summer camps that are occurring off-campus that the school is still involved in, in conjunction with other colleges. For instance, a California school may host a camp and invite coaches from schools in Texas, Nevada, and Oregon to be coaches at the camp. They are “guest instructors” or something to that effect. Why do they do this?

Benefits of satellite camps.

It all comes down to recruiting. Satellite camps allow coaches to go to areas where recruits are at, which negates the trouble of recruits from different states not being able to travel to their camps all the time. On a similar note, it also increases the number of camps coaches are able to attend, thus seeing and evaluating more players.

The question that may arise is why do colleges partner up with other schools? Wouldn’t that risk competing with other schools for recruits? The answer is kind fo but not really.

Next time you look at a satellite camp, take a look at the school list. For instance, Whittier College hosted a camp. The “guest instructors” were the Boise State coaching staff. Two years ago there was a “Mega Camp” in Texas that featured 13 FBS schools, ranging from Oklahoma State and Arizona State to Boise State and Colorado State and even Arkansas State (that’s a lot of states) and SFA.

The point is, rarely do partnering college programs recruit the same level of player. Instead, a school on one tier partners with a school from a higher or lower tier and both level of schools benefit. Boise State is the common denominator in the two examples above, so they will be used to illustrate.

At the Whittier camp, Whittier and Boise State aren’t recruiting the same type of player. However, Boise State is a well-known brand and will attract many campers hoping to impress and land an offer, so it benefits Whittier. Boise State wants to be at a camp in California, where they recruit half their class in any given year, so partnering benefits them. Say 100 players attend the camp, Boise State is probably concerned about 20-25 of those 100, making sure those they’ve offered in the area attend the camp and evaluating the rest to see if they should get an offer. Again, it clearly benefits them. Out of the remaining 75, there may be a few surprises, but otherwise the others just aren’t at the talent level the Broncos are recruiting at. However, they may be right in line for Whittier College. Thus Whittier benefits by spending time with the players, building relationships and then can recruit some of these players who initially came to the camp because of Boise State.

The opposite works too. When schools like Boise State or Colorado State go to the Mega Camp and they are the 2nd or 3rd tier schools, they can start to recruit the campers who came to get noticed by Arizona State or Oklahoma State but won’t get offers from them. It continues to allow them to get a foothold in the talent rich state of Texas. It clearly illustrates how multiple types of schools can benefit from this arrangement. Be that as it may, many schools hate the idea of satellite camps and actively try to limit or get rid of them.

Under scrutiny

If you are the SEC, specifically an Alabama or Georgia, you don’t want other schools coming into your recruiting territories and stealing recruits. Now it may be fine if it’s Boise State, or other Group of 5 schools, but it’s an entirely different when it’s Michigan, which is what Harbaugh has done and landed recruits because of it.

The SEC does not allow satellite camps and the ACC did not until recently. It’s confusing as to why the SEC bans them, but since it does, it makes sense that they don’t want anyone else to do them. Alabama and Georgia recruit nationally, so it would make sense they would want camps all over the country.


Your favorite team will be hosting and participating in a number of camps over the month of June. Expect offers to be handed out, recruits to be tweeting how they were named an MVP or best at a position of a camp, and possibly even a few commitments. Behind the scenes, coaches will be evaluating and discussing players they coached and ranking them on their big recruiting boards as recruiting will hit full swing this coming fall. It’s clear to see how this benefits the majority of college programs, especially those from the Mountain West Conference.

Additional reading on the subject: