Indy satellite camp drawing wider audience this year

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — Mike Ford didn’t know what to expect when Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff kicked off last year’s “Summer Swarm” tour at Bishop Chatard High.

Ford, Bishop Chatard’s athletic director, has a better sense this time around as Harbaugh and company return to Indianapolis Wednesday morning as part of UM’s jam-packed satellite camp tour, which debuted Tuesday night in Naperville, Ill., at the North Central College Football Camp.

“There won’t be too many down moments,” Ford said. “They keep them hopping pretty good and doing some fun activities during the three-hour program.”

According to Ford, the concept of Harbaugh holding a camp at Bishop Chatard last June was aided by one of the high school’s graduates and current parent, Casper Boso.

Boso and Harbaugh were NFL teammates and played five seasons together with the Bears from 1987-91.

“They stayed good friends over the years and when the idea came up last year, I think they were talking and coach Harbaugh said, ‘Hey, do you think your old school would be interested in having us come in?’ ” Ford recalled. “Boso called me up and I said, ‘Sure, I’d love to do that.’ ”

Satellite camps aim to sell Michigan’s brand

Ford was in talks with UM football recruiting assistant Elijah Sandweiss to set up this year’s Elite Sports Camps, which will feature boys and girls lacrosse, girls volleyball and cheerleading along with football.

“(Sandweiss) contacted me a few months ago now and they had said even at the end of last year, Harbaugh would be interested in doing it again,” Ford said. “It takes a while to figure out schedules and the timing of things.

“When we talked back in early March or maybe late February, the idea was yes, let’s do it again but they had to wait on the NCAA to give their final blessing.”

That blessing initially didn’t come as the NCAA banned satellite camps in early April, only to rescind the decision a few weeks later.

“Personally, I thought it was kind of a knee-jerk reaction to some other coaches that frankly I think were maybe envious or jealous and were ticked off they weren’t being as creative,” Ford said of the camp ban. “I felt mostly bad for kids that wouldn’t get that opportunity on a local basis to do it because not everybody can afford to pay for overnight camps for several days on a college campus.

“That’s not within everybody’s means. Satellite camps like this are $40, $45, are pretty affordable and a pretty neat local experience you wouldn’t normally find.”

According to Ford, roughly 200 spectators and 164 players — the majority from central Indiana and one from as far as Nebraska — attended last year’s camp.

Harbaugh 'amazed' by Saban's satellite camp 'lecture'

Ford said he expects a bigger turnout Wednesday with 170-plus players already registered, including one from Baltimore, one from Cleveland and another from the Chicago area. He added virtually Michigan’s entire football coaching staff will be on hand (several UM coaches will be attending a camp in American Samoa the same day) as well as coaches from the University of Indianapolis and Western Kentucky.

“It’s not something that you’re typically going to see very often. There’s lots of opportunities to go to clinics or attend camps and those are good but I don’t think you always get a hands-on experience with collegiate coaching staff, particularly a vast majority from position coaches to special teams to the head coach himself,” Ford said.

“I think that’s probably the unique thing and I can say after observing Harbaugh last year, the vast majority of kids at this camp are probably not Division 1 football players or aren’t likely to make it there. But I thought every one of those kids got the same attention and the same direction from the Michigan coaching staff whether they really showed that potential or not.

"They all walked out of here thinking that was a pretty worthwhile camp and left an awfully nice taste in their mouth about the University of Michigan."

Simply put, Wednesday will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many.

“Some of these kids may never play college football on any level,” Ford said, “but it will always be memorable to them that they got that exposure.”