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.
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.”
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:
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.
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.
HOW SOON UNTIL FOOTBALL SEASON?
READING MATERIAL FOR MASTERS COMMERCIAL BREAKS
INSTANT AJC RECRUITING CLASSICS …
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
Note: Inappropriate BLOG comments and personal attacks will NOT be tolerated. We love the lively discussions but hate-filled, harassing and irresponsible comments are unacceptable.