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Michael Niziolek: Auburn coach Gus Malzahn’s conservative satellite camp stance a head-scratcher

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, right, talks to players during practice at the university's athletic complex Tuesday, March 8, 2016.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, right, talks to players during practice at the university's athletic complex Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Ledger-Enquirer.com

Gus Malzahn isn’t embracing satellite camps.

It’s not a shocking development considering his stance on the issue when the Division 1 council voted to ban the camps in early April.

“I am in line with that,” Malzahn said. “I think it’s a good call.”

Malzahn was forced to revisit the issue in the wake of the NCAA Board of Director’s decision to reverse the ban.

Last week, Malzahn didn’t express a whole lot of enthusiasm for sending his coaching staff off to various camps around the country, but sounded as if he was willing to experiment and see what worked.

“I think there’s been a lot of discussion with our staff and we’ve thrown around a lot of different ideas and we’re trying to figure out what these other schools are doing too,” Malzahn said.

While Malzahn wasn’t ready to announce the program’s official satellite camp plans Tuesday night in Atlanta, his dismissive tone suggested those internal satellite camp discussions didn’t move him away from his original stance.

“Not any final decisions, but we will do very few (camps), we are wanting to get guys to our campus, I think that’s very important, ” Malzahn said. “At the same time I want my coaches around our players too, be there in the office not just travelling the world.”

In the two weeks since the Board of Director’s decision, it’s clear there will be many different strategies for satellite camps.

Few teams have the resources to go to the extremes of Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. His staff is closing in on 30 scheduled camp stops for June including one in Australia.

Auburn appears to be at the other end of the spectrum by limiting itself to a specific geographic area and participating in a small number of camps.

Malzahn can fall back on his strong recording record — he’s had three straight top 10 recruiting classes — to justify the opinion, but it’s at odds with the program’s efforts to stand out on the recruiting trail in the competitive SEC West where four teams ranked in the top 10 nationally last year and Auburn at the bottom of that group.

Malzahn’s main point of contention with going all-in on camps is that would detract from efforts to get recruits to the Plains.

If a recruit can walk through Auburn’s campus and get a feel for the university’s state of the art facilities then Malzahn believes a scholarship is an easy sell.

Why participating in camps would come at the expense of the coaching staff’s ability to attract visitors or get student-athletes to sign-up for the Tigers own summer camps isn’t clear. The time demand on assistants might be an issue as Malzahn suggested, but with the size of Auburn’s staff it seems like a manageable one.

Auburn might be hoping satellite camps just go away when the issue is revisited down the line, but given the program’s recent struggles is that a risk Malzhan can afford to take?