BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — In just less than two weeks, new Penn State kicker Alex Barbir will report to campus.
The Cumming, Georgia, native and three-star recruit said he’s excited to begin training with his college team and to meet new people — basically, “to start a new chapter” of his life.
But this part in his story could have turned out very differently if the South Forsyth graduate hadn’t attended a satellite camp at Georgia Southern with Penn State coaches a year ago.
“I knew they wanted me up to camp, but getting up to Penn State wasn’t too convenient for me. That was kind of hard for me to do,” Barbir said of what would have been nearly a 12-hour drive or an expensive plane ticket and rental car to travel from his hometown near Atlanta to University Park.
While the incoming freshman initially committed to Rutgers, Barbir said that one camp in June 2015 was the reason he ended up signing with Penn State in January.
“Ultimately, that wouldn’t have been possible without me going to that satellite camp, and that satellite camp being so close to me,” he said.
Another summer camp season: Back to present time, Penn State is starting its 2016 camp season with zeal, starting Monday evening at Bowling Green State’ Falcon Monday Night Football Camp. Coach James Franklin and his staff have practically a camp a day through June 24, with stops in North Carolina, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia and back home in State College. And that doesn’t even count previous trips to Michigan and Florida for Sound Mind, Sound Body Football Academy events or Franklin’s appearance at Lauren’s First and Goal camp in Easton earlier this month.
All of this after the NCAA Division I Council ruled to ban satellite camps in April before the NCAA board of directors overturned the decision later that same month. Franklin was one of the first college coaches to popularize satellite camps in the Big Ten during his first season at the helm in 2014.
But the drama because of satellite camps seems to have only fed the fervor. Penn State will travel about 1,000 more miles to camps and attend three more total events this year compared to last.
Franklin said after the Bowling Green camp he embraces all the travel and looks forward to interacting with other programs. In fact, he said it’s hard for him to stay in one place.
“It’s a little hard, last week, when we hadn’t started and I saw people doing them all over the country,” he said, adding he waits to start his 15-day window of satellite camps until after high schools let out for summer vacation. “My personality is, I have a hard time sitting there knowing somebody else is out doing the travel camps.”
Oversaturation: Georgia State coach Trent Miles said the ban and then reinstatement of satellite camps meant many regulations for the camps disappeared, which has caused an oversaturation of camps and almost a competition between schools of who can go to the most camps in one summer.
“There’s really not many rules too them, so it’s kind of flooded now,” Miles said. “Guys are going to camps with third parties, not universities. They’re going to camps with high school coaches. There needs to be some regulation on it now as opposed to how it’s going at this very moment.”
Franklin said he didn’t believe there were too many camps, but the biggest difference is that now every conference is allowed to attend satellite camps, which inherently makes the number jump. Miles and Franklin have combined on a satellite camp for the past two seasons and will continue the tradition June 21 at Collins Hill High School in Suwanee, Ga. Miles said he had no problem with how satellite camps ran before the brief ban, but currently, “something has got to change because right now, it’s just out of control. There’s a camp every day, and that wasn’t the intent.”
Worth it: Bowling Green State’s director of football operations, Ryan Downard, said while the month of June is pretty busy, the chaos is worth it both for the teams and the players.
“It’s really a good deal to see all different kids throughout the state,” Downard said. “But when it comes down to it, it’s about them getting as much opportunity as they possibly can in front of as many coaches as they can.”
More than 300 players attended Monday’s Bowling Green camp, which was the largest so far this year for the school, according to ne Bowling Green coach Mike Jinks. He spent 19 years as a high school coach and said the question on the right or wrong of satellite camps is simple.
“To me, for the student-athlete, these camps are vital,” Jinks said. “And at the end of the day, that’s what we’re really here for is them.”
Barbir said in the summer before his senior year, he spent hours plotting his camp schedule, determining which teams were in need of a kicker, what camps they would be at and how many he could attend while also giving his legs a few days of rest in between so he could perform well. In all, he said he attended about seven, with the farthest he traveled being to North Carolina.
The soon-to-be Nittany Lion, who tweeted his disagreement with the initial satellite camp ban, said he thinks it was the right choice to bring them back.
“There are a decent amount of players that come from homes where they don’t have a lot of money. They can’t pay for four years of college. They’re trying to provide for their family, and they’re using football as a gateway to get to that,” Barbir said. “So not every family can pay money to [go to a camp]. Having a satellite camp allows the coaches to come to you, almost, and that makes it a lot easier for players to get out there.”