UM's Manuel ‘comfortable’ with Harbaugh’s big camp tour

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Rosemont, Ill. — The number of camps Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff plan on attending this spring seems to grow on an almost daily basis.

And as that number now reaches 36 with stops in more than 20 states and two foreign countries, some around college football are wondering if it’s too much.

One person who is firmly behind Harbaugh is his boss — athletic director Warde Manuel.

“We’ve talked about it in general and there’s a limit because there’s a time limit with what he’s trying to do,” Manuel said Tuesday at the Big Ten’s spring meetings at its conference headquarters near Chicago. “The numbers are high because there’s some connectivity to where he’s going in the country in hitting multiple events and also breaking up the staff to go to multiple events. The number is what it is at this point. And I’m comfortable with where we’re at right now.”

It all begins June 1 in Indianapolis and heads through nearly every part of the country, from the Midwest to the South and even out on the West Coast and in Las Vegas. Throw in trips to Australia and Samoa and there’s very few places Harbaugh and his staff won’t be in the coming weeks.

It all comes at a cost, as well, and Manuel is confident things are still manageable in terms of paying for all the travel. Last year’s “Summer Swarm” tour saw Michigan spend a little more than $200,000 for eight events.

That number jumps dramatically this year, and with it, so does the bill.

“I always worry about cost,” Manuel said. “We have had some donor support for things — as we do with all sports — specific to football in doing these kinds of initiatives and using those resources to do that. I’m comfortable with where we are from a budget standpoint and where we are with what resources we can use to support this outreach and what we’re doing.”

What Michigan is doing is up for debate.

For most, it’s clearly about recruiting. It was at the center of complaints from SEC and ACC coaches and was a big reason the practice of satellite camps was first banned, only to be rescinded a few weeks ago.

“As we know, camps are all about recruiting and they don’t go together,” said Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst when talking about the possibility of regional combines. “That’s not the way the rules are set up and so we’ve got to try untangle that.

“I’m looking at it from perspective of not only the prospects and current student-athletes, but our coaches and try to get everybody more balance in the system because what we’re asking everybody to do is just crazy. Just too much in a short time.”

Obviously, that’s not an opinion shared at Michigan.

“There are no conversations I’ve had with Jim where he says ‘My goal is to do this to recruit.’ We know the majority — 95 to 98 percent — of the prospects we’re going to recruit in the country before he goes to one camp,” Manuel said. “So to say this is about recruiting and to put it in that light is just, it’s not the perspective that he has and it’s not the perspective we should have on this.

“The top programs know who they’re recruiting and have a good sense of it.”

Which, of course, prompts the question: What is the endgame for Harbaugh and Michigan if it’s not recruiting?

“I think you have someone who has a desire and the willingness to put in the work and the time to not only spread Michigan football and Michigan out there in the world, but really to talk about the good in football at a time where football has been perceived — to a certain degree — in some negative light,” Manuel said. “When you look at participation numbers at the Pop Warner or little league level going down, so the effort that he’s making — yes it spreads the Michigan football brand and the Michigan brand out there in the world — it really talks about the positive aspects, the way to play the game of football.

“It’s an important thing for us to talk about. He played. I played the game. It gave me great value long-term as to who I am in life and I think it brings a lot to young boys in particular. And you see some girls getting involved in football, too. I think it’s a good thing from that perspective, as well.”

Whether it is allowed to continue with no limits after this year remains to be seen.

The Big Ten has been supportive of the idea of satellite camps, even if most institutions haven’t opted to take part at the level Michigan has. And there doesn’t appear to be any plans for that to change as the conference’s athletic directors conclude their meetings Wednesday.

“I think those are institutional decisions,” Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said. “I think there’s value in the opportunities those camps provide. We take advantage of those opportunities the way we do and I think every institution does it differently.

“We want to bring the kids to Michigan State that fit Michigan State and (football coach) Mark (Dantonio) has a pretty good pattern for how to do that and that’s what we’re gonna continue on in the future. If you’re at another school you’re gonna have maybe a different approach to that, so I would not anticipate any further conversation there.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

Michigan’s 2016 satellite camps

June 1 – Bishop Chatard High, Indianapolis

June 1 – American Samoa

June 2 – Cedar Grove High (held at Maynard Jackson High), Atlanta

June 3 – Trinity Christian Academy, Jacksonville, Fla.

June 3 – St. Thomas Aquinas, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

June 3 -- Australia

June 3 – Nova Southeastern University Elite Prep Sports, Ft. Lauderdale.

June 4 – Cheshire (Conn.) Academy

June 4 – University of South Florida, Tampa.

June 4 – Coaching clinic, Norfolk, Va.

June 5 – Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Va.

June 5 – Lauren’s First and Goal Lafayette College, Easton, Pa.

June 7 – South Alabama, Mobile.

June 7 – Hun School, Princeton, N.J.

June 8 – Pearl High, Pearl, Miss.

June 8 – Raw Talent U camp, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

June 8 – Paramus (N.J.) Catholic

June 9 – Warren (Ohio) Harding High

June 9 – Fairfield (Ohio) High.

June 9-10 – Sound Mind Sound Body, Detroit

June 12 – Baylor University, Waco, Texas

June 12 – Empire Showcase, Norco, Calif.

June 13 – North Shore Stadium, Houston

June 14 – Greenhill High, Addison, Texas (near Dallas)

June 14 – Oakland High, Murfreesboro, Tenn.

June 15 – Pittsburg (Kansas) State.

June 15 – Blue Springs South High, Kansas City, Mo.

June 17 – Ridge View High, Columbia, S.C.

June 17-18 – Pride camp, Orem, Utah.

June 17-22 – Michigan hosts camps in Ann Arbor

June 22 – Chaparral High, Las Vegas.

June 23 – Antioch, Calif.

June 23 – Inderkum High, Sacramento, Calif.

June 24 – Oceanside High, San Diego

June 25 – Hawkins High, Los Angeles

June 26 – St. Louis School, Honolulu

June 30 – American Samoa