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Jim Harbaugh’s Second Satellite Camp Tour More Style Than Substance Thus Far

June 14, 2016

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Speaking to reporters following a stop at New Jersey’s Paramus Catholic High School to close the final week of his highly touted satellite camp tour, Jim Harbaugh insisted that the purpose of his month-long journey across the country—and sometimes, world—isn’t necessarily what many have been portraying it to be.

“Everybody keeps saying, ‘the obvious thing is this is about recruiting’ and I disagree. I’ve disagreed with that premise from its first inception,” Harbaugh said, per Mark Snyder of The Detroit Free Press. “It’s not about recruiting. If it really helped recruiting that much, people would have been doing this.”

The Michigan head coach’s claims would have been easier to take seriously had he not been wearing a Derek Jeter New York Yankees jersey in an attempt to pander to the Tri-state area.

While Harbaugh may remain steadfast in his argument that the Wolverines’ recruiting strategy and satellite camp plans are separate, it remains hard to believe that a high-profile head coach would willingly spend his June working more than 40 camps without the added benefit—or intent—of attracting talent to his program.

It’s no coincidence that Harbaugh’s camps happen to be occurring in traditionally talent-rich areas, or in the case of Paramus Catholic, directly at programs that possess high profile prospects.

And in the event Harbaugh is being less than truthful when he says the primary purpose of his camps aren’t rooted in recruiting, it’s hard to consider the first two weeks of the sequel to last year’s Summer Swarm Tour an outright success.

At least not compared to a year ago. The former San Francisco 49ers head coach’s original revolutionary satellite camp tour started with a slew of commitments to Michigan from prospects who coincidentally or not had participated in one of Harbaugh’s camps. Within the first 15 days of last June, the Wolverines had received no fewer than six commitments to their 2016 class, four of which came from satellite camp attendees.

“Coach Harbaugh is why I committed, coach Harbaugh, that’s it,” 4-star all-purpose back Chris Evans told MLive.com’s Nick Baumgardner after committing to Michigan following a camp in his hometown of Indianapolis last summer. “I’ve never seen a head coach like him before.”

The same could likely be said for the prospects who have attended the 14 camps Harbaugh has already taken part in this year. Though, thus far, the only commitment the Wolverines have yielded has come from 2018 offensive guard Jalil Irvin, who attended Michigan’s June 2 stop in Atlanta.

The Wolverines have received commitments from 2017 4-star defensive ends Luiji Vilain and Corey Malone-Hatcher since the start of June, although neither pledge came as the result of a satellite camp stop.

“We know the 200-250 people that we’re recruiting already,” Harbaugh insisted, per Snyder. “We can easily recruit them from Ann Arbor.”

But despite his public objections, Harbaugh can also use satellite camps to recruit them on the road too, especially with Michigan’s first week’s-plus worth of camps coming on the fertile recruiting ground of Ohio, Mississippi, Georgia, Atlanta, New Jersey, Florida and Texas.

As for the lack of commitments, that could perhaps be attributed to an adjustment in the Wolverines’ strategy after multiple 2016 commitments—including some whose pledges stemmed from satellite camps in early June—ultimately didn’t wind up in Michigan’s class.

“There were mistakes made and I take full accountability for them,” Harbaugh said this past national signing day, after accusations that the Wolverines were forced to trim their class due to size limitations. “But I won’t apologize.”

But even without actively taking commitments—Michigan has only received three verbal pledges to its 2017 class in the past two months—Harbaugh has managed to use his unprecedented camp tour to his advantage.

Over the course of the past two weeks, no coach in college football has garnered more attention than Harbaugh, who’s shown up at each satellite camp stop wearing the jersey of a hometown hero. The result has been a steady stream of tweets and headlines announcing what Harbaugh is wearing as if he were an actress on the red carpet at an award show.

After all, if Jim Harbaugh wearing an Allen Iverson Philadelphia 76ers jersey to a camp in Virginia isn’t going to generate headlines in the college football blogosphere in early-June, then nothing will.

It’s a play straight out of the Jim Harbaugh playbook: Maximize the attention on yourself and your program in order be a constant in the news and the minds of recruits. It’s a strategy that helped the Wolverines land the nation’s No. 5 class in 2016, with Michigan’s 2017 class currently ranking fourth in the country.

“From a marketing and publicity standpoint, he is an absolute genius,” Rivals.com National Director of Recruiting Mike Farrell told Bleacher Report last month.

Harbaugh has insisted this summer hasn’t been about recruiting, going as far as telling Snyder and other reporters, “I’m not going to say it anymore, this is the last time. We’re doing this because we really enjoy it. You can believe that or not, I don’t really care anymore.”

But through his first year-and-a-half as the head coach at his alma mater, Harbaugh’s ability to build a brand that benefits his program on the recruiting trail has been apparent.

The jerseys, the excessiveness, the overall extravagance of Harbaugh’s latest venture, all of it fits a track record that’s helped make Harbaugh one of college football’s top recruiters—even if tangible results from this year’s satellite camp tour have been few and far between, thus far.

But fear not, Michigan fans. There’s still more than two weeks and dozens of camps left for Harbaugh to make the most of this month.

And if his history has shown anything, it’s that he’ll certainly make some noise while doing so.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report’s Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruiting class rankings courtesy of 247Sports‘ composite.

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