June 16, 2016
ANN ARBOR — Thirty-eight camps. Twenty-two states. One international trip.
For all that, Michigan football’s blitz of summer satellite camps is expected to cost roughly $350,000, according to Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel.
On the same day Manuel reported to the U-M Regents that his athletic department is projected to break even in the 2017 fiscal year, the first-year AD also revealed the estimated cost of coach Jim Harbaugh’s ongoing nationwide tour.
“It will come in somewhere around there,” Manuel said the $350,00 figure.
According to Manuel, a budget for the camps was discussed prior to the tour. In the end, he sees it as “an investment that we’re making in our program and football, and the things that (Harbaugh) is doing with the kids and that our coaches are doing across the country.”
Since beginning on May 31, Michigan’s camp tour — featuring Harbaugh and/or members of his staff visiting schools and running camps — has gone from Illinois to Indiana to Ohio to Georgia to Florida to Australia, back to Florida, to Connecticut to Pennsylvania to Maryland to Alabama to New Jersey to Mississippi to Oho, back to New Jersey, back to Ohio, to California to Texas to Tennessee to Kansas to Missouri to South Carolina and to Utah.
Stops remain in Nevada, California, Hawaii and American Samoa.
Between the NCAA nearly banning satellite camps altogether and pundits tossing arrows of criticism, Harbaugh’s camp tour has stirred endless pots.
Manuel’s response to those critiques was plainspoken.
“(Harbaugh is) investing so much of his time and so much of his staff’s time,” he said. “I fight every time I’m asked about it — this idea that it’s just about recruiting and it’s just about Jim. He doesn’t need that, if it was just about him. And we don’t need that to know who we’re going to recruit. That, I think, is an important piece to talk about as it relates to the expenditure and the investment that we’re making.”
As for Harbaugh’s dustups with the likes of Nick Saban, Manuel said, “I don’t pay that much attention to it. I don’t like it, I don’t dislike it. I’m neutral to it because it’s not the intent of anyone, I think, to bump heads about this.”
Of that estimated cost of $350,00 — a number that Manuel said could reach $400,000 or be closer to $300,000 — the largest cost will come from airfare, notably the use of a private plane.
Final costs for the satellite tour won’t be available until after the final camps are held later this month.
Manuel emphasized that the number of camps rose because Harbaugh’s various contacts in football were reaching out to him.
“He wants to help them and help the kids in those particular areas, and so we’ve invested in him being able to do that,” Manuel said.
At the same time, it’s no coincidence that many of the camps have also been held at the home schools of some of the top college football recruits in the country.
Manuel, though, focused on Harbaugh’s oft-cited ideal of promoting the game of football.
“In my mind, I’m willing to invest because Michigan has been in the role of really supporting and promoting what we think is the right thing to do,” Manuel said. “He’s out there teaching the game the right way. He’s out there promoting the game of football, which is important to me, to him and to Michigan. For us, it is an investment that is worth it.”
That said, Michigan’s brand is undoubtedly being spread.
“I’d be lying if I told you that it wasn’t also, along the way, marketing the university, marketing our football program, talking about that commitment and importance that we see across the country,” Manuel said.
Manuel added that he has no plans on attending a camp to see the operation from the ground level.
“I’ve been to camps,” said the former U-M offensive lineman, soon adding, “I’m not a coach. I don’t need to go out on the road and see them.”
— Download the Michigan football on MLive app for iPhone and Android
— Download the Michigan basketball on MLive app for iPhone and Android
— Follow MLive’s Michigan coverage on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
— Subscribe to “The Wolverine Beat” podcast on iTunes