Welcome to the college football offseason.
We are more than a month removed from the National Championship and still a month away from the start of spring football. But don’t think for a second that means Jim Harbaugh is out of the news.
Harbaugh and Michigan want to take part of spring practice on the road to talent-laden Florida.
The SEC is not a fan of this move – even if it is during the University of Michigan’s spring break. The conference made that fact known this past Tuesday.
Are you in favor of Harbaugh taking the Wolverines to Florida to take part in spring practices during their break?
BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart and BTN.com editor and writer Sean Merriman debate that here.
TOM DIENHART, @BTNTomDienhart
I have no issue with Michigan and Jim Harbaugh wanting to conduct spring practice in Florida. In fact, he should be lauded, praised and given credit for thinking outside the box and pushing the envelope to try to make Michigan a better team. That is what he’s paid millions to do. And conducting spring drills in the Sunshine State no doubt would raise the profile of Michigan in a very fertile recruiting area and perhaps help the Wolverines land better players … which would lead to better Michigan teams.
See how that works? It’s pretty simple.
Predictably, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey cries “foul.” He says this isn’t about location. Rather, Sankey is concerned about the welfare of student-athletes. I am sure he is. But, hidden behind that “defense” is Sankey’s concern about location. C’mon, Greg. Fess up and just say it. It’s OK. Everyone is afraid of looming super power Michigan.
It’s this simple: The SEC doesn’t want Michigan to plant a flag on its turf. This all started last year with Harbaugh conducting satellite camps in the south that had the SEC aghast. Having spring drills in Waffle House Nation would take Harbaugh’s invasion of sweet tea and grits territory to another level.
Again, Sankey says he’s concerned about time demands on student-athletes. To make players go through spring drills during their spring break—their free time–would be counter to a recent movement to lighten the load on athletes. Nice to see Sankey suddenly become such a vocal champion for student-athletes when his league is being threatening by a Harbaugh takeover. Coincidence?
Know this: If Harbaugh proposed having spring drills in Los Angeles, Sankey wouldn’t have said a peep about time demands on student-athletes.
Again, the SEC is worried most about Harbaugh gaining a competitive edge through exposure and better recruiting by invading its turf.
Take a bow, Jim. You have the SEC shaking in its boots … and you haven’t even won anything yet.
SEAN MERRIMAN, @BTNSean
You make several good points Tom, and really, I also don’t have a problem with Harbaugh conducting spring practice in Florida.
But, where the unfair advantage comes into play is where the Wolverines will actually be conducting these practices – IMG Academy, which is essentially an elite athlete boarding school in Bradenton, FL, that consistently produces some of the top players in the nation. To me, that seems like a bit of an unfair advantage to be practicing at their school, in front of their players, with the chance to interact with them on a regular basis during that time.
And yes, the SEC’s Greg Sankey says it’s “unfair” for students to have to spend their time on spring break playing football. I know part of that is because he simply doesn’t’ want to see these kids leave SEC Country. But he does have a point.
It’s not like these kids have a holiday break. They are practicing for bowl games during that time. If they want to go home, take time away and see their families, that seems like the time to do it. The idea of “taking a trip to Florida” sure sounds nice, but when you’re going for spring practice, that takes away the “trip” part of it.
I have heard the argument that other sports do this all the time – baseball, golf, tennis, ect… But they do that to play against other programs. Those are games. This is practice. They are two completely different things.
My question is, how can the SEC counter this move by Harbaugh and the Wolverines?
Guess what? They can’t. There is no counter. The talent down South is elite to the talent in the Midwest, outside of maybe Ohio. It always has been, and it will continue to be so.
You know how many kids Harbaugh signed in his 2016 class from the state of Ohio? Zero! He knows the talent is down South, he wants to take advantage of that, and they have the chance to do just that with this move that has clearly shaken things up down in SEC Country.