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Chicago Daily Herald
For 21 days last year, the NCAA abolished satellite camps altogether.
Those camps hit the national college football spotlight when Michigan appeared at 40 camps around the country, plus Australia and Samoa. The argument over satellite camps became a Jim Harbaugh vs. the SEC battle, with Alabama coach Nick Saban publicly questioning whether the camps had any value.
Common sense eventually prevailed, the NCAA rescinded the ban and here in Illinois the camps have been a boon to suburban football players. North Central College in Naperville held three days of football camps last month, with special guests from out-of-state colleges each night.
"I think it's a tremendous opportunity for high school athletes to have a chance to showcase their talents in front of multiple layers of college football coaches," North Central coach Jeff Thorne said. "It limits the amount of money they have to spend out of their pockets. They don't have to drive all over the country to get seen."
A Monday session at North Central was attended by the Iowa State coaching staff. Minnesota, with new head coach P.J. Fleck, a Kaneland native, followed on Tuesday while the Wednesday session included Wisconsin, Missouri and Western Michigan.
Several smaller schools were represented as well. Coaches from Illinois State, Northern Iowa and South Dakota State were at Monday's camp, for example.
Some players attended just one day while others signed up for all three days at North Central. Montini senior quarterback Matt Morrissey said he spoke to South Dakota State coaches and got an invitation to attend their camp.
"It's nice because it takes the stress out of having to go out and visit each school separately," said Morrissey, who was with four Montini teammates at one session. "I just started talking to South Dakota State. I've talked to UNI (Northern Iowa) a little and saw them today. I went to their camp last week."
Morrissey has had a busy schedule lined up this summer. Besides the three camps at North Central, his summer list included Northwestern's showcase camp, a stop at Northern Illinois that included reps from Penn State, Arkansas and Southern Illinois, and a camp at Holy Cross.
Recruiting analyst Tim O'Halloran, has seen college football recruiting change drastically in recent years, as top schools try to get a jump on the biggest stars by identifying them as freshmen and sophomores.
Crystal Lake South sophomore lineman Dominic Collado attended the North Central camp. Listed at 6-3, 290 on his high school roster, he has the size to draw some attention and has gotten acquainted with the training structure.
"The first camp I went to kind of got me in the rhythm, and then when I kind of got used to them, it became really fun at the end," Collado said.
This was the third year North Central hosted satellite camps and many more schools across the suburbs hosted as well, such as Lake Forest College (with Illinois, Indiana State and Wyoming), Elmhurst College (with Syracuse, South Dakota and Minnesota State), and Illinois Benedictine (Iowa, Eastern Illinois and others). Many camps offered a good number of coaches from smaller schools, as well.
The benefits seem obvious. High school players hoping to get recruited can attend a one-day camp and be seen by several schools from FBS, FCS and often Division II and III.
"I talk to kids all the time and kids want to go to camps and they want to come out and compete," O'Halloran said. "I've talked to kids in the last couple of days that said they can only go to maybe two one-day camps because of the cost. At least this is closer than having to drive to Ames, Iowa or Champaign or somewhere. They get a chance to be evaluated, to be seen."
The NCAA banned satellite camps in April 2016 - the Big Ten was the only Power 5 conference that voted to keep them - then rescinded the ban three weeks later. Eventually, new guidelines were adopted. Satellite camps must now take place on a college campus and coaching staffs are limited to 10 days of camp attendance per summer.
There were just under 200 players at North Central's first day of camp.
"I think it's a win-win, I really do, without a doubt," Thorne said. "If you look at our two camps last year, 65 kids who attended those two camps last year got scholarship offers from a Division I or a Division II school. So the exposure is definitely there.
"The Penn State camp we hosted in 2015, we had 50 FBS players at that camp. So it really does help. I'm not suggesting that our camp is the reason these kids are getting scholarships, but it's one more opportunity for those kids to get noticed. I know in several cases, our camp is where they were noticed for the first time."
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