Thursday, June 25, 2009


A Tale of Two Camps

Last week my 16 year old son attended football camps at Notre Dame and the University of Tennessee. (Which is also why I haven't blogged recently.) The differences in the quality of the two camps stood out clearly from the start of each camp.

At ND registration started 5 minutes early. People let us in at a controlled rate and made sure we knew exactly which table to go to. At each table we completed only one task which kept the process moving quickly and smoothly. Once we began registering, we were finished in 10-15 minutes. We then went and checked my son into his dorm which also was quick and painless. People were stationed at every intersection, making sure we knew where to go.

UT's registration process moved much more slowly. At times we waited 10-15 minutes at one table. Part way through we had to go check into the dorm which was half way across campus. Given the number of one way streets and complexity of UT's campus, had I not been an alumni, finding the dorm would have been difficult. Too few clerks at the dorm slowed us once again. Checking in the dorm took at least a 30-45 minutes while at ND it had taken 5-10 minutes from leaving the registration site to being fully checked into his dorm room.

Returning, as directed, to the registration site at UT, completing registration included my son being measured and weighed, having his picture taken with and without his shirt on, plus him running a 40 yard dash and doing the shuttle run. His times were slow as he was stiff and sore from the ND camp which had only finished the day before.

Taking pictures of kids with no shirts, and holding a white board with their height and weight at UT, was too weird for me. At UT's introductory meeting, they claimed the camp wasn't a "recruiting camp." If so, why did they take height, weight, pictures with no shirt (the kids never received a copy of either picture taken of them), and later divide the groups into high school seniors and others? Indeed, the camp appeared to be nothing but a camp to assess potential talent.

The registration processes proved to be signs of things to come. Notre Dame's camp, 4 days/3 nights, ran like clock work. All activities began and ended as scheduled even when, one evening, rain forced activities inside. Although ND had 300-400 kids, the ratio of coaches to campers was excellent. They stressed technique with some actual contact drills (no pads). Each camper's picture was taken with ND head coach, Charlie Weiss. Coach Weiss showed up regularly every day giving friendly greetings to everyone he passed by.

At UT, head coach Lane Kiffin was not in the pictures although there were less than half and many kids. Additionally, the kids received little technique instruction, at least the linemen, and primarily went through drills matching one against another. This further reinforced the feeling the camp was primarily for recruiting purposes. Tennessee also played loud hip-hop/rap music during many of the activities. Lyrics I heard referred to "Mother f***er", of something that sounded just like it, and "I'm a venereal disease." Stuff I wouldn't let me kids listen to but apparently approved by the UT football staff.

The staff at Notre Dame, coaching and other personnel, seemed much more professional than those at UT. The only thing I liked about UT's camp was that my son got to go up against a couple of big guys and he held his own. He won't face anyone like that during the season. The only thing my son liked about UT was the food. UT has always had a good Food Services department.

Everything about Notre Dame impressed me. Nothing about Tennessee did.

After the camps were over, my son and I talked about his goals. I told him how my sister had set a goal to be good enough to play for the Lady Vols. She wasn't that good but was good enough for 5 NCAA Division 1 colleges to offer her a scholarship. My son responded, "My goal is to be good enough to play for Tennessee, but I'll play for the University of Cincinnati." Although my father, mother, two sisters, one brother, and myself graduated for UT and my father taught there for his entire career, I approved his choice whole heartedly.

Just out of curiosity, but if you're sons goal is to be able to play for UT, yet it sounds as their standards have dropped since you were there, why not look at another SEC school? Why go to a non football conference? Why not stay within the SEC if he's good enough? I realize this may go against your grain, but why not UK? If UT is the goal to be good enough, I'd say UK would be obtainable and is better than UofCincy, and still in the SEC which everyone in the country knows is the best football.
We like U.C. because of the coach. UK would be fine, too. UT is my alma mater and of my parents and 3 of my siblings. Ultimately, the conference is down the list on priorities. Academics and coach are the top two.
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