Satellite camps, the SEC, and real talk about competition

As soon as college basketball ended — putting an end to the football-basketball portion of the college sports cycle — the headlines have exploded with big developments, the latest being the shutdown of satellite camps by the NCAA.

More precisely, this is not “the NCAA” or Mark Emmert; this is the collection of NCAA member schools, refusing to allow satellite camps:

Anyone in college sports has an opinion on this issue, and by the time you finish reading this brief commentary, you’ll know where I stand on the issue. However, this piece isn’t dedicated to the attempt to offer a “right or wrong” verdict on the matter. Others can and will speak to that particular point. We have a full offseason in which to do so.

The immediate and foremost purpose of this commentary is to offer a few words on competition, what we claim to believe about it, and what we actually feel about it in the authentic innermost core of our being.

It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that in the SEC, this ban on satellite camps was heartily welcomed and appreciated:

More work for everybody.

Forget the whole part about this being a billion-dollar industry with hefty salaries for head coaches and — in the SEC — top-tier coordinators and assistant coaches. There’s no need to say anything more about that particular subtopic.

What interests me is that coaches will be the first people to tell their players how much work is needed to be great, to be a champion, to rise above the competition.

I’m all for creating a culture in which burnout — not overextending oneself to an unreasonable degree — is discouraged. Yet, aren’t we already at that point in big-time football, both in the SEC and the NFL? Would satellite camps represent the true tipping point, the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of forcing coaches to work truly unhealthy hours (whereas they’d be able to live balanced lives without satellite camps)? I’m skeptical, to say the least. I’m open to counter-arguments, but skepticism is my initial inclination.

Beyond that, however, I’m puzzled that the very notion of working harder in a lucrative and cutthroat industry is so distasteful to people in the SEC (and anywhere else the satellite camp ban was welcomed).

We’re a nation whose citizens work longer hours and take fewer (and shorter) vacations than the citizens of other nations and continents. We live in ways which court burnout and bring that worrisome affliction into our worlds, our homes. The shame of this — at least one source of shame –is that said burnout often flows from work situations in which people aren’t doing what they love, just what they need to do to put food on the table; a roof overhead; and an education within reach for their families, particularly future generations.

For the people who coach college football, work is a dream. It’s the culmination of what they wanted to do with their lives, the fulfillment of a lot of work over time.

Now, for some (not all) of the people in this profession, satellite camps are a bridge too far?

Pardon me if I say I’m unimpressed.

We just finished a college basketball season in which the UConn women strolled to another title, leading College Sports Twitter to beg for someone, anyone, who will compete better and either beat Geno Auriemma or — at the very least — force the Huskies to win with some measure of difficulty.

We’re in a tennis season which is featuring the unchecked dominance of Novak Djokovic on the men’s tour. Tennis fans (other than Djokovic backers) are pleading for someone to stand up to the World No. 1. They think tennis is boring without some real drama.

Yes, plenty of us want more and better competition in life, and many of these voices are open to the idea that just about anything which (ethically) promotes more competition is a good thing.

Yet, we have large factions in college football which didn’t want satellite camps… and these large factions do not come from the bottom of the power structure. They come at (or very close to) the top.

If the SEC takes pride in being the best college football conference over a larger period of time — which, I hasten to say, it SHOULD; it has earned the right — why should the conference or any of its member schools or coaches object to outside attempts to increase and intensify competition in the industry?

What we outwardly say about competition — about being the best — and what we privately believe about competition are often two very different things.

This doesn’t apply to everyone, but it applies to enough people that others — especially those in Big Ten country — surely notice.

About Matt Zemek

Editor, @TrojansWire | CFB writer since 2001 |