Bjork: College football needs ‘broader conversation’

Published 6:05 am Sunday, April 24, 2016

College football is about as popular as it can get in the Southeast, but there are some topics that need to be vetted from all angles in order to be properly addressed.

At least that’s the way Ole Miss’ athletic director sees it.

Ross Bjork chimed in on everything from the regular season to the spring game format to offseason recruiting and camps Friday during the Rebel Road Trip at the Oxford Conference Center. Perhaps the most intense topic of conversation this offseason has been the NCAA’s decision to ban satellite camps for FBS schools, just one example of an issue Bjork believes can be better handled if alternatives are discussed constantly.

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“The Football Oversight Committee is in place to do all of that, so I think it needs to be a broader conversation,” Bjork said. “I don’t think we can do one-off things, and that’s what has happened with the satellite camp. It’s been a one-off conversation. But people are forgetting a holistic view of it.”

Satellite camps bothered coaches from the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference after other schools, notably Michigan under second-year coach Jim Harbaugh, held them for high school prospects in the southern schools’ backyard. Michigan brought camps the last two years to Alabama and Florida, fertile recruiting ground for the SEC and ACC.

Bjork said he didn’t know if the ruling to ban the off-campus camps would be reversed, but he’d like to see the NCAA do more with the spring evaluation period that already exists for college coaches if not so that high school players can still get exposure. Assistant coaches are annually allowed to visit high school campuses for six weeks starting in mid-April to talk to coaches and evaluate recruits.

“Why not do something in the spring period where you do jamboree-type events and you bring college coaches in where it’s sponsored maybe by the NCAA?” Bjork said. “Right now, it’s a six-week period. Maybe it becomes eight weeks, and part of that eight-week period is these recruiting events or showcases.

“Camps were originally to learn and to get better, not be recruited. Now they’ve turned into this recruiting thing. And so if it’s a recruiting thing, let’s make it part of the recruiting calendar.”

As for the spring game, which is an annual glorified intrasquad scrimmage, Bjork, like Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, is in favor of playing other teams in the future, offering the controlled scrimmages NFL teams have during training camp as an example.

“I think something like that would be interesting to look at, a controlled scrimmageenvironment,” Bjork said. “A charity tie-in would be really neat. Obviously you’d have to change legislation because you’re only allowed 12 football games, so you’d really have to look at the dynamics of that.”

It’s an idea other SEC coaches and athletic directors have to get on board with, Bjork said, before a change in format could be proposed.

“We’re going to bring it up at the (SEC spring) meetings and really see if there’s an appetite in our league,” he said. “If there’s really no appetite within our league, then it’s hard to do anything independently. You’ve got to work within your conference.”