LSU's Ed Orgeron isn't his state's nanny, so protests over satellite camps are laughable

Dan Wetzel
Columnist
Head coach Ed Orgeron (middle) is serious about protecting his recruiting turf in Louisiana. (AP)

Top football prospects in the state of Louisiana ought to be doing one thing right now – researching everything they can about the University of Texas football program and then searching for a way to get over to Austin for a visit.

The Longhorns apparently have so much going for themselves that if coach Tom Herman even wades across the Sabine River, the LSU Tigers might collapse in ruins.

Don’t take my word for it. Take the actions of LSU head coach Ed Orgeron. Stricken by a case of myopia, Orgeron is being blamed for getting a third high school football camp canceled in his state because Herman’s Longhorns and some other schools were going to be there.

“Paranoid Ed,” is how Hal Mumme, the former Kentucky coach now in charge of D-III Belhaven University (Miss.), described Orgeron to Scout.com and that sure sounds about right.

A quick primer over this controversy. In recent years college football programs around the country have created so-called “satellite camps” – single-day events so their coaching staffs can get out into particular areas and potentially scout a player they would have otherwise missed.

Schools usually team up, with a slew of D-I programs working a camp ostensibly hosted by a local Division III program. Just about any high school kid can attend for a small fee. It allows players of all levels of ability – from five-star to maybe a D-III prospect – a reason to come out and learn a little football and maybe brush shoulders with some famous head coach. It cuts down on travel, cost and commitment for the players and their families. If nothing else, kids often get motivated to work on both their games and their college academic eligibility. With any luck, a few will get discovered and offered a scholarship.

No player has to attend. Usually everyone has a good time. It’s a win-win for everyone, especially when the camps are held in rural areas where opportunity doesn’t always knock. It’s virtually impossible to find a negative here.

In this case, Mumme was staging the camp at a high school in Hammond, Louisiana. (after one in Baton Rouge fell through because, he claims, LSU put on pressure to cancel the offer). The coaching staffs of Texas, Houston, Cornell, Belhaven and maybe others would be there too. It was supposed to be held on Thursday.

Instead it was canceled and Mumme says it is the fault of Orgeron and LSU. The Tigers coach has already been blamed for two previous camps being canceled that were scheduled to involve Texas. That also kept schools such as Michigan, Arkansas and Texas A&M out of the state.

“It was for sure LSU,” Mumme told Scout. “And I think it’s a shame for an SEC school to pick on a D-III school that relies on these kinds of camps to recruit kids and give them opportunities. What they did was they pressured every facility in the state not to let us use it. And they were successful – at depriving some kids in Louisiana an opportunity.”

Mumme is correct. By using its influence over other public colleges in the state, as well as area high schools, Orgeron is trying to limit competition for in-state players. It is, as Mumme announced, unfair to state residents because it also limits opportunity.

Parents and high school coaches should speak out. Orgeron was named head coach at LSU last winter, not state nanny.

Is this the bogeyman? No, it’s Texas head coach Tom Herman, although LSU might say otherwise. (AP)

While the unapologetically cutthroat ethos of college football is one of its enduring charms, this is shortsighted. It speaks to a coach who fears beating state schools for in-state talent, a rather peculiar note to strike especially for an otherwise charismatic guy who works at a place that almost always dominates on signing day.

It is another sign of how out of whack priorities can get when college football is involved.

“Protecting the state of Louisiana is always going to be my job as the coach of LSU,” Orgeron said early this spring.

Yes, he’s paid handsomely to win football games for the Tigers and a line like that is always a winner on the chicken dinner booster circuit. It’s also ridiculous.

Protect the state of Louisiana from whom exactly … universities of all sizes and shapes eager to unearth some high school kid and give them a scholarship?

LSU can’t take all the players in the state. LSU doesn’t want all the players in the state. The players don’t all want LSU. It’s OK. If Orgeron was comfortable in his abilities, he’d welcome that.

The idea that Cornell, out of the Ivy League, isn’t going to be in Hammond on Thursday, possibly connecting with some player who probably otherwise would never get on its radar – or the Big Red on his – is absurd. There is no threat to LSU football.

Not even mighty Texas is going to steal all the players – and even if the Longhorns do, it’s not a crime that a young man and his family decided to attend a prestigious university across state lines.

Could a satellite camp help the Longhorns get another player or two a year out of Louisiana? Sure. There’s a reason Herman was coming after all. Will it dramatically change the fortunes of college football? So far, they haven’t made that big of a difference. Besides, Interstate 10 runs both ways and no one is, or ever should, stop Orgeron from running his own camps from Beaumont to El Paso.

Just go compete. LSU has plenty to sell too.

That Orgeron is so troubled by Texas is probably the best compliment and recruiting card he could present Herman, who is trying to revive a sleeping powerhouse.

If LSU is so scared of him coming to Hammond for a weekday afternoon in June, then maybe everyone should find a way to get over to Austin and see just what it is that is so intimidating.

 
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