Bret Bielema weighed in on, among other things, Jim Harbaugh and the practice of satellite camps during a recent interview.
Bret Bielema was recently a guest on The College Football Podcast with Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated. The discussion was extremely interesting, in that it illuminated a side of Arkansas’ head coach not often projected to the public.
Often coming off as a brash, oafish character who likes to swill beer and climb on his wife after games, Bielema is extremely self-aware. His tactical, Xs-and-Os knowledge was apparent throughout the entire interview, as was the genuine affinity he holds for his players.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the podcast was Bielema discussing satellite recruiting camps – namely Michigan’s spring break practice session down at IMG Academy in Florida. Though on Twitter he had poked fun at Jim Harbaugh’s overt recruiting ploy, Bielema ensured that he had no problem with the practice. His playful tweet was more aimed at riling up the blogoshphere during talking season.
“I’ve known Jim for a period of time and I’ve really admired his career and his path. Everybody was trying to get so twisted about it [the tweet] – I was trying to make light of it, have fun with it. I had no intentions of going to IMG. I’ve been. I’ve recruited players there before. It’s a wonderful facility. I did it to rile people up a little bit.”
Bielema expressed that he would be “very shocked” if the NCAA didn’t eventually come up with new legislation regarding satellite camps, and lauded Harbaugh for finding a loophole.
“It usually takes the NCAA about a year, a year and a half to catch up to everything … [it’s] one of those things that’ll have a short window, but kudos to them.”
As for whether the practice was advantageous for Michigan, the answer was simple: absolutely.
“Once coaches realize that high school coaches and student athletes could watch an open practice … there’s an advantage there. You get a chance to watch Michigan practice. You can’t say there isn’t a presence or weight.”
However, Bielema is still unsure of how well spring break practices will translate on the recruiting road. Yes, a program gains exposure – especially in markets where it may not yet have a foothold – but there is a downside: players cannot go home on vacation. Parents already uneasy about their child not coming home for Thanksgiving and Christmas may be unsettled by yet another off period stripped from the student athlete.
“Here’s the thing that really jumps out: it’s not just the week. It’s spring break. I just sat down with 108 players and about 75% of my guys are going home. Those kids get very little chance of going home.”
Ultimately, it’s a very nuanced response by Bielema regarding what had heretofore been a polarizing topic. An interesting angle from a candid coach who always surprises.