One of college football’s best recruiting ideas of the spring

The University of North Carolina is doing something this spring that may be developing into a trend among other college football teams in the Southeast.

It’s a terrific idea, especially from a recruiting standpoint, by UNC first-year coach Larry Fedora.

The Tar Heels have moved one of their spring practices to an off-campus location – 135 miles away to the fertile recruiting grounds of Charlotte. Thursday’s open scrimmage will be held at Mallard Creek High School – and it’s perfectly legal within NCAA rules (more on that at the bottom). UVA coach Mike London has been doing this for two years, and the Cavaliers have practices at three different off-campus sites this spring, according to CavalierInsider.

If you were a college coach, would you move one of your boring spring practices to an off-campus location for recruiting purposes?

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There are three reasons we love this idea: It provides a lot of exposure for the Tar Heels to their fans in the state’s largest city, it gives an otherwise boring spring practice a special feel to the players like a “road game” and – most importantly – it will reap tremendous long-term recruiting benefits.

“It was something we’ve done in the past; When I was at Southern Miss, we had two scrimmages that we went on the road to other parts of that state … so it was natural to do it here and do it at Charlotte,” Fedora told the AJC.

“We have such a tremendous fan base there, and this enables to get in front of our fans and gives them the opportunity to see how hard these guys are working during spring ball. Also, of course, it enables all the high school students in that area to be able to come out and watch a scrimmage.”

We’re thinking a few of those high school students may turn out to be blue-chip football prospects. That’s a big reason why Fedora pinpointed Charlotte with this innovation.

“There’s obviously a lot of great players in that area,’ Fedora said. “And you know, this gives them another opportunity to see us. You know, they may not be able to get down and see a spring practice because of school, spring breaks, and  those kinds of things.

“This enables them to come over and watch a practice, see how we’re doing, and they can see the new Carolina way.”

UNC's Larry Fedora: This guy gets it (AP)

UNC's Larry Fedora: This guy gets it (AP)

What has been the general reaction from UNC recruiting targets about the innovative spring practice? “I think they are excited about us coming up there and being in their area … them having the opportunity to come over,” Fedora said. “Now when they come, we can’t talk to them because we are off-campus. But they are able to watch our practice and see what we do.”

Even North Carolina’s current players like this idea. “The way we treat it is almost like a road game,” Fedora said. “You know, get on the bus and you go to a different location, you suit up, and you have to go out and play. And we really try to treat it like a road game, as far as our mentality. It gives our players another opportunity to do something different.”

Here’s the NCAA bylaw which permits an off-campus practice:

“Expenses may be paid for practice sessions only if they are associated with an away-from home contest or conducted at a site located within the member institution’s state or, if outside that state, no more than 100 miles from the institution’s campus.” [D] (Revised: 1/10/05)

Why is UGA not having a spring scrimmage in Atlanta? Or Auburn? There’s not a bigger hotbed of talent in the Southeast than Atlanta and Miami. Is is too late for UGA to move the rest of its spring practices, beginning tomorrow, 35 miles down the road to Grayson High School (um, Robert Nkemdiche)? That’s one of the first things I thought about when hearing about UNC-to-Charlotte. Why not? Here’s why: The SEC has a policy against off-campus practices during the spring, according to SEC spokesman Charles Bloom:

The SEC limits spring practices and games to being conducted at on campus facilities. This policy has been established in a long-standing Commissioners Regulation, which is more restrictive than the NCAA rule permitting off-campus practices.

What about the ACC? They go by the NCAA rule, per ACC spokesman Mike Finn:

The ACC does not have a more restrictive rule on this than does the NCAA (we actually do not have a rule on this at all). So the NCAA rule, which you listed, would be what our schools would go by.

Think of all the possibilities:

Clemson's Dabo Swinney: Hello Columbia, S.C.?

Clemson's Dabo Swinney: Hello Columbia, S.C.? (AP)

  • Clemson: Every year, if I’m Dabo Swinney, I’m invading Columbia, S.C. – the state capital and the heart of the Gamecock Nation. That intra-squad scrimmage will generate about $10 million in free publicity for Clemson. The media will dub it “That’s why Carolina’s in Chapel Hill and USC”s in California – and Clemson and Heisman hopeful Sammy Watkins are in Columbia” spring scrimmage. … I’d also think about scheduling a practice in Fort Mill, S.C., or as close as I can get to Charlotte – which has been awful kind with supplying recruits to Clemson over the years. The actual city of Charlotte would be off limits because it’s out of state and 133 miles from Clemson, but Fort Mill is a suburb on the South Carolina side.
  • Florida State: Biggest no-brainer here — Miami.
  • Georgia Tech: If I’m Paul Johnson, I’m definitely going to an Atlanta suburb, most likely Gwinnett County. And I think about maybe Augusta or Macon just to build goodwill with fans across the state.
  • Miami: I’d head for the suburbs of Miami, probably for the high school of the highest-ranked prospect that is a junior.

Here’s where it gets more interesting, I think. Remember when Coach K (or was it Dean Smith?) had that brilliant recruiting tactic of signing a player from far away and then trying to schedule a non-conference game against a team close to that player’s hometown? I seem to remember Duke playing Buffalo or another New York college near Christian Laettner’s hometown of Buffalo, N.Y.

FSU's Jimbo Fisher (AP)

Nobody in the Southeast potentially benefits more from off-campus spring practices than FSU Jimbo Fisher. He can go anywhere in talent-loaded Florida, per NCAA and ACC rules (AP)

Imagine being able to do that in football? If I’m Jimbo Fisher, I get on the phone with somebody like Laremy Tunsil of Lake City, Fla. – he’s the No. 1-ranked offensive tackle in the nation, according to Rivals. Lake City is 100 miles away from Florida State. The conversation with Laremy goes something like this: “Laremy, do you know how important you are to our football program? So important that we want to have one of our spring practices at your high school after you sign here. That’s right, we’re going to bring our entire football program to Columbia High School in Lake City, Fla. Your parents and relatives, along with all of your teachers and coaches, will be able to just drive down the street to watch you play. That’s how important you are to us. I bet Florida won’t do that for you, will they? How about Georgia? No sir. Go ahead and ask them. But we will make it happen because that’s how important you are to us.” [Note: We’re using Tunsil for demonstrative purposes only]

Or what if Keith Marshall or Todd Gurley would’ve been coming out next year? Do you think UNC – which was a serious contender for both until the looming NCAA sanctions – might have scheduled a spring scrimmage at their high schools or close nearby? We would’ve.

Can you see the recruiting possibilities here? If it’s permissible within Pac 12 rules, we can see Lane Kiffin scheduling all of his future spring practices at the high school or nearby facility of a top California recruit.

What are your thoughts? Please post below.

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174 comments Add your comment

7576DAWG

April 4th, 2012
4:26 am

Most of the great players from North Carolina decide to not play for University of North Carolina because they are in the ACC. Great players know their exposure will be greater and more rewarding for them if they go to an SEC team. Also they have been noted more for their great Basketball teams not football. A lot of their players getting caught with an agent hasn’t helped any. When a team is on probation or restrictions most of the 4 and 5 star recruits are going to another school on that knowledge alone. Give North Carolina a few more years and they will get back to about as good as they can get but they still have to live with the fact that they are in the ACC.

Michael Carvell

April 4th, 2012
4:27 am

UNC had nine players drafted last year — more than any other college in the country …. http://dev.chuckoliver.net/2011/05/record-setting-nine-unc-players-selected-in-the-nfl-draft/

7576DAWG

April 4th, 2012
4:39 am

It’s a good gimmick to take the spring practice on the road but what do you do about teams like Auburn or Florida State. If the SEC changed their rule and allowed off campus practice then in order to compete with Auburn and Florida State taking the road show to south Georgia or west Georgia then UGA would have to do the same and that could mean up to a 4 hour bus drive so for me I hope the SEC keeps the practice to on campus practices only. The ACC could take advantage of the ACC and NCAA rules by going to the city of Thomasville or Valdosta. That would definitely give Florida State an advantage in recruiting south Georgia.

GaWahoo

April 4th, 2012
4:39 am

The University of Virginia and head coach Mike London was the first school to take spring practices on the road 3 years ago. This year they have 3 practices in different parts of the state.

Michael Carvell

April 4th, 2012
4:51 am

@GaWahoo, thanks and noted

who me?

April 4th, 2012
5:34 am

UGA coud have it at the Clarke County Probation office so all of the players could participate.

Mountain Dawg

April 4th, 2012
5:49 am

UGA should hold a scrimmage at Grant Field just to show the NERDS what their pitiful ’stadium’ would look like at full capacity.

Joe

April 4th, 2012
6:04 am

You are becoming part of the problem. The tail does not wag the dog. Are you stupid enough to think that an entire university should kowtow to the whims of an 18 year old kid by having spring practice in the kid’s hometown?

This should be a place for you to write about the news that goes on in recruiting. Your continued interjections and editorializations sound like a 13 year old kid at the lunch table with his buddies. It is embarrasssing.

WnE

April 4th, 2012
6:11 am

Would other parts of the State even allow CPJ & GT to do this, especially after his elitist , “go back to your Wal-Mart jobs” comment?

Add in the Junior Gnonkonde snafu plus the situation with the scholly getting pulled from the Lineman that visited FSU last yr. and I’m not so sure the rest of the State of Ga. will even welcome GT & CPJ.

Your HC needs to be a consensus builder and bridge builder to recruit well in your home state, not a bridge burner.

tenn.DAWG

April 4th, 2012
6:15 am

UGA should have one in the ATL area every year and one in another part of the state like Columbus,Valdosta,Camden County,etc.They draw from Alabama,The Panhandle,and Jax. in addition to the instate kids and that would really jack those Dawg Fans up

jmfsu

April 4th, 2012
6:17 am

While Miami makes sense for FSU, FSU has ability to hit Valdosta even harder with the 100 mile clause. To the Dawg, we already kill it in south Georgia. Lowndes had been Nole territory for a few years before JHC. That would be a great school for FSU to practice at.

FSU already does extremely well in south Florida, but a few spots I can think of around FL that’d make sense: First Coast in Jax, St Thomas Aquinas (if their coaches allowed it), and any number of Miami schools. Fortunately, Miami is a dumpster fire filled with turds, so FSU and UF will continue to get theirs in south Florida.

Kingdaddy

April 4th, 2012
6:19 am

I hate to tell you guys this, but South Georgia is like in another state down here. Florida, S.C., Fla. St. and Auburn already Recruit us heavy. Sometimes it seems to forget this part of the state on a regular basis. A practice down here may be a long trip, but that caravan would be huge news through middle and south GA…

Mountain Dawg

April 4th, 2012
6:21 am

Lighten up, Joe! (although you do make a good point).

Kingdaddy

April 4th, 2012
6:24 am

Good Morning Doggies and Trolls. Don’t forget us in Savannah …

Kingdaddy

April 4th, 2012
6:28 am

Mountain Dawg
Joe does have a point. This could get expensive and out of hand. Just saying …

CANEGUY

April 4th, 2012
6:37 am

If this writer had only done an ounce of research on his story, he would have found that Miami has had its last two scrimmages in Fort Myers and Hialeah. The U is re-building its fence around the so-called “state of Miami,” and will leave the mouth breathing, inbreed, jort wearers of UF and FSU to find their own recruiting grounds.

CJ

April 4th, 2012
7:07 am

He should schedule one Saturday practice in Macon and one Saturday in another spot that rotates each year. In state EXPOSURE is the key.

jmfsu

April 4th, 2012
7:12 am

CANEGUY,

A Cane blogger said the team at Ft Myers looked like a 3-4 win team. Not an FSU or UF guy, but a UM guy.

Have fun recruiting between the dumpster fire team and the scholarship cuts. Don’t forget your boy Golden is trying to change the off campus culture. This isn’t the B1G. People aren’t going to show up at your rent-a-stadium to watch losing teams the next 3 years. And that means no money. Have fun retaining any staff outside of Golden on a shoestring budget with no ticket revenue, low TV revenue, and no booster support.

Miami is wide open. You can’t recruit on 5 rings forever. Don’t forget, when Golden was at Temple, they were the runaway big spenders in a low-dollar conference. Big fish, small pond. His talent was infinitely better than most of competition, and he performed extremely poorly against anyone but lowly MAC competition.

But keep thinking there’s a wall around Miami, and that Golden will lead you to more than 7 wins in the next 5 years.

Taylor King

April 4th, 2012
7:15 am

I love it….Michael also note that Army hosted its spring game at Ft. Benning this year.

Al Pica

April 4th, 2012
7:35 am

A shameful program full of cheaters and liars. I hope Fedora restores some class there. Here’s a thought: why not take the entire athletics program and stay in Charlotte or any other city in America where the bandwagon fans are? It’s a cancer on a truly exceptionally great school.

Gamecockrock

April 4th, 2012
8:03 am

Dabo better get hopping because he will not be around long. Nothing in the trenches.

A Father

April 4th, 2012
8:05 am

This is a great article with what should be the most interesting SUBJECT MATTER.

North Carolina and Miami to the SEC EAST DIVISION, Missouri back to the WEST

10 Conference Games a Year, 7 Division, ( 3 Outside Division – 2 Rotating and 1 Annual Given.)

Do not complain about to tough of a schedule, will hurt NCG opportunities, the true fans of SEC schools would love to see SEC football Games Each Week for the Money!!!!

SEC would still dominate the National Championship Game and control TV Purse’s

Paddy

April 4th, 2012
8:06 am

WnE…….What is the Junior Gnonkonde snafu? I guess I missed that item! Thanks

FL Jacket

April 4th, 2012
8:13 am

CANEGUY is right…

In the 80’s and early 90’s you could not come into the “State of Miami” (basically everything south of I-4) and take a top recruit away from UM. Practicing in Fort Myers is a step in trying to take that concept back.

What MC also doesn’t realize about Miami is that, unlike Atlanta, most of the top billed recruits actually play HS football IN MIAMI. At high schools like Northwestern, Carol City, Central, Norland, Booker T. Washington, Southridge, Edison, Jackson, Killian…not to mention quality private schools like Belen Jesuit, Gulliver Prep, and Pace.

While there may be stud recruits playing in Broward or Palm Beach counties…the concentration is certainly not there like it is in Miami-Dade county.

FL Jacket

April 4th, 2012
8:23 am

“Add in the Junior Gnonkonde snafu plus the situation with the scholly getting pulled from the Lineman that visited FSU last yr. and I’m not so sure the rest of the State of Ga. will even welcome GT & CPJ.”

WnE…

The JG situation was a kid failing to meet a promised ACT/SAT score by a margin large enough that it was not worth the risk. That falls on JG and his coach as much as anyone.

Get your story straight about Tre Jackson. He had his scholarship pulled not because he visited FSU while committed to Tech, but because he did it behind CPJ’s back. If a kid isn’t going to be honest with you before he even signs…

Scott

April 4th, 2012
8:35 am

Dean Smith is the coach who, when getting a player outside of the normal ACC footprint, would always schedule a game close to the player’s hometown. Please don’t ever get Coach Smith mixed up with Coach K.

Seamonkey

April 4th, 2012
8:35 am

What ever it takes to get Foster and Nkemdiche to Athens. Move practice, move the spring game ….heck move some of the home games. Soul for sale!!!!!

foothills

April 4th, 2012
8:37 am

The Heels don’t have to worry about expenses going to Charlotte. They’ve got bag men there to pick up the tab. Swafford might even kick in a little extra.

Paul in NH

April 4th, 2012
8:40 am

I find it ironic that Fedora is having a practice at Mallard Creek HS since his top player from Mallard Creek, QB Marquise Williams, was recruited by Butch Davis and may not fit Fedora’s offense. Fedora is going after dual threat QBs and has already trumpeted a signing out of GA as the QB of the future.

If Fedora really wanted to make a splash he should have driven south an extra 20 miles and had his practice at Independence or Butler.

Pat

April 4th, 2012
8:41 am

unc isn’t leaving for the sec.

A Father

April 4th, 2012
8:42 am

Foster at this time is all Alabama, word is Tray Matthews will be with him at A Day the 14th, dont know if it will happen, just sharing.

Nkemdiche, and two or three of his Grayson teammates may be headed to the same college, somewhat of a long shot but has credibility.

Roll TR

April 4th, 2012
8:46 am

top programs don’t need these gimmicks to get fans–leave that to mediocre programs like clemson and north carolina. RTR!!

Roll Tide

April 4th, 2012
8:46 am

Naa, no need at all, when you’re the best, the best come to you. The underground railroad from the Georgia plantation runs all the way to Titleville Alabama.

RxDawg

April 4th, 2012
8:51 am

“Or what if Keith Marshall or Todd Gurley would’ve been coming out next year? Do you think UNC – which was a serious contender for both until the looming NCAA sanctions ”

The NCAA sanctions? Man they were old news when Todd and Keith made their choice. I’m sure UGA recruiting had nothing to do with them not signing with North Carolina… pft. I see your back to poking the dawg again.

UGA is close enough to ATL. It wouldn’t be worth the logistics to pick up everything and move. And moving a basketball team isn’t quite the same as moving a football team.

Jadaveon Clowney

April 4th, 2012
8:51 am

MIchael, if I didn’t know better, I would swear Dabo Swinney is paying you to mention him and Clemson in as many artcles as possible. Between re-visiting his staged rant, to his “ground-breaking” idea of spring scrimmage games against another school to suggesting his team hold scrimmages in Columbia and Fort Mill, SC, it seems everytime I go to ajc.com and see your recruiting section, you continue with your love affair of Dabo.

Enough gratuitous coverage of the joke of Pickens County!

FL Jacket

April 4th, 2012
8:59 am

“The underground railroad from the Georgia plantation runs all the way to Titleville Alabama.”

Nothing racist about this whatsoever…

BamaGuy

April 4th, 2012
9:05 am

This is all Saban’s fault

BamaGuy

April 4th, 2012
9:10 am

Enter your comments here

Just Saying

April 4th, 2012
9:18 am

FL Jacket
There you go again with the academic BS regards Junior G. Youbare wrong. His GT scholarship offer was withdrawn because the Asst Coach, Spencer, made multiple “illegal” contacts in violation of NCAA rules. GT backed off to avoid possible sanctions, the NCAA frowns on programs on probation committing violations. His ACT or SAT scores got him in at UNC, GT would have taken him.

Carvell the scenario you put forth regarding FSU and Tunsil may be a violation. It is an obvious inducement with a promise which has financial implications. I don’t care for the idea of moving practices, it reeks of a cheap Carnival atmosphere. College football is about much more, it’s a campus, college life, students, atmosphere.

Beast from the East

April 4th, 2012
9:20 am

Caneguy,
I liken the “U” to UNLV basketball when Tarkanian was there. Soared to the top with the right coach, but faded fast back into mediocrity. A small private school that can’t sell out it’s stadium in the second larget city in the southeast is going to dominate again with a “mid-major” type coach? I think not. Yes, they will always get talent because of where they are located, but it takes more than just raw talent to win big and consistently. Your day in the sun is over.

Roll Tide

April 4th, 2012
9:21 am

You people (UGA fans) use phrases and terms, like “fencing in” our recruits, and “locking down” the borders over yonder in dear old Georgia, We have instilled “safe coaches” and pathways for these kids to come out from all that Peach puff bondage and enjoy freedom and success in the land of opportunity called Alabama.

No child should have to serve time in the Clarke County Penal colony…

RTR22

April 4th, 2012
9:22 am

Try filling your stadium for the spring game. That impresses recruits, but not very gimmicky which seems to play well in Jawja and other parts of the country. RT and see you at A Day next wkend.

A Father

April 4th, 2012
9:24 am

Keith Marshall sustained an injury in practice, may be acl but being suggested as just a pull currently, should hear more today about this.

Promethius

April 4th, 2012
9:28 am

Paul in NH, I’m afraid you are too far away to keep up
w/UNC. Marquise Williams fits better in Fedora’s offense than in BD ’s. MW was top ten dual threatQB in country. Articles have been written about him thriving in spread. And, Mallard Crekk is one of best programs in state.

chuck

April 4th, 2012
9:28 am

What’s with this love affair you have with Dumbo Swinney? You’re making reference to Dumbo every other day like he’s God’s gift to coaching. Last time I looked he and climpson were God’s gift to WVU!

FL Jacket

April 4th, 2012
9:29 am

Beast from the East…

The Canes sold out the Orange Bowl (almost 80K) regularly and perennially scheduled tough opponents (Oklahoma, Notre Dame, etc…) while it was making itself a name. The city was behind them…but their baggage has caught up to them. They have every resource imaginable to be dominant once again if they can make better coaching hires that Larry Coker and Randy Shannon…

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

April 4th, 2012
9:29 am

Butch Davis was/is a great recruiter but there is some doubt how he was able to get this many great players to NC in addition the W’s &L’s don’t match the talent. UNC will be a team to watch in the coming years after they get past the NCAA issues. If a coach can win at So Miss then he should be able to win at UNC. You have to give these coaches credit for trying to get their teams up on page one.

Dawg Haus

April 4th, 2012
9:33 am

Interesting thought.

Beast from the East

April 4th, 2012
9:45 am

FL Jacket,
I call BS. I remember going to the Orange Bowl in the 80’s and half the stadium was Gator fans. The “U” only sold out when the opposing team’s fans came in droves. How many do they have for home games versus Duke, Wake Forest, etc? Look it up and get back to me.

Roll Tide

April 4th, 2012
9:45 am

I am starting to like Mr Carvell’s column more and more, nothing bland in his bowl of cereal, while the rest over there seemingly all ’spoon up bowls of “cream of wheat.”