Tasked with representing the Pac-12 in the NCAA vote on banning satellite camps, Guerrero supported the ban despite an 11-1 margin of opposition from member schools. Oops.
Without wading into the nitty gritty, satellite camps were a mechanism that allowed college coaching staffs to go off-campus and hold or participate in workouts and training sessions with high school players. For example, a junior college in Houston could hold a camp and attract local kids to attend by arranging for, say, Bob Stoops and his staff to speak and/or conduct coaching sessions.
It was a win-win-win. The hosting school got revenues from increased attendance at their camp, and any attendees that didn’t end up with offers from a 4-year school were then more likely to consider the junior college as a playing option. The visiting coaching staff got exposure to kids out of their area without having to use up precious recruiting or campus visits. The kids got access to top-flight coaches and exposure to a big name program without having to spend the money to travel far from home.
The problem arose when Jim Harbaugh of Michigan started flaunting his camp participation in SEC country. Since the SEC knows they have the tendency to take everything too far, they’ve tried to reign things in with a conference-level ban on participating in camps in each others’ territory. Worried that Harbaugh was about to undo the restrained balance they had achieved within conference, they pushed for an NCAA prohibition.
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Bringing things to the Pac-12, the only two schools with an obvious incentive to fence off their local recruiting grounds are USC and UCLA – and USC is confident enough in its ability to pull in any local talent of their choosing that they did not see the satellite camps as a threat.
That leaves UCLA, and sure enough, when the conference voted internally on the issue, eleven schools voted against a ban on satellite camps and one (UCLA) abstained. Unfortunately for the rest of the conference, it was UCLA’s athletic director representing the conference at the NCAA meeting. And Dan Guerrero voted counter to his instructions and supported the ban.
So Guerrero bucked his conference orders and risked the scorn of his peers and of Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott to stand up for UCLA’s interests? Not so fast. Jim Mora is on the record saying he doesn’t find satellite camps a concern.
Mora has broadened UCLA’s recruiting scope and has brought in kids from all over the country, most notably the Dallas area. He likely is aware that UCLA and USC are names that carry equal weight everywhere in the country except for Southern California, where local kids are brought up from birth on tales of Trojan glory. A broader recruiting footprint allows Mora to target kids that might be interested in playing in Southern California but do it on an even playing field with USC.
So Guerrero thought he knew better than his own football coach what was in the best interest of the football program? Maybe, but that just seems a little far-fetched.
A general maxim that I rely on in situations like these is ‘Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.’ As we’ve covered elsewhere, Guerrero is a man well aware of the constituencies to which he reports and the various stakeholders to whom he is beholden. He has explicitly mentioned his responsibilities to the conference.
He has also never been shy about his professional ambitions to work at the NCAA level some day. All of the administrating and glad-handing he can dream of without any of that messy hiring and firing and competitive accountability – it’s perfect for him. So it’s unlikely he would spurn his peers and his conference – in a manner so surely to be discovered and made public – in an way that doesn’t even serve the interests of his own program, as stated by the head coach.
No, I think Guerrero just made a mistake somewhere. Perhaps he thought he was voting ‘yes’ on whether to continue discussion before holding the vote. Perhaps he thought he was just voicing his personal opinion and not realizing that it was being counted as the Pac-12 vote. Perhaps he thought he was voting ‘yes’ for satellite camps when he was in fact voting ‘yes’ on a ban of satellite camps. The possibilities are endless. Robert’s Rules of Order are notoriously complex, and we all know Dan Guerrero does not like being pressured into quick decisions.
So until and unless the athletic department comes out with a spirited defense of Guerrero’s vote (and even then, considering the possibility that he’s in full CYA mode), I’m choosing to interpret Guerrero’s odd decision as more Mr. Magoo than Machiavelli, more of a pratfall than a principled stand.
It’s still as embarrassing as all get out for UCLA fans, and we can only hope it doesn’t get taken out on the team in the press or on the field. But Dan Guerrero isn’t conniving, he’s just confused.