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What’s the Deal About Michigan Spring Football in Florida?

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Jim Harbaugh is having quite the offseason.

Over the last few months, Michigan’s head football coach climbed a tree in a recruit’s backyard, held a Signing of the Stars event on National Signing Day featuring Derek Jeter and Tom Brady and secured a consensus top-5 recruiting class.

And now he is angering SEC and ACC coaching staffs by holding a portion of Michigan spring Football in Florida for training at IMG Academy.

Despite the outrage from these Southeastern programs, Harbaugh’s latest recruiting tactic is technically permitted.

According to the NCAA bylaws, there are limits on the number of spring practices (15) and span (34 calendar days), but there are no rules governing location. By exploiting this loophole, Harbaugh is not only garnering national headlines, he is getting access to arguably the most talent-rich high school in the country.

Interested in learning more about the NCAA bylaws — but don’t want to get bogged down in them? We can help you understand NCAA regulations.

Michigan’s Florida practices take advantage of IMG’s “football factory” facilities

IMG Academy operates like a big-time college sports program with intensive athletic training and state-of-the-art facilities.

After years of being the preeminent amateur tennis academy, IMG started its football program in 2013 and began to recruit the best high school players from across the country.

Last season, the football team went undefeated and 14 seniors signed with Division I programs.

Next year’s team looks to be even better, as 29 potential D1 prospects are returning, including the consensus top junior, Dylan Moses, who is of course being recruited by Michigan.

Why Michigan spring football in Florida is a big deal

The University of Michigan is a traditional football power that is ill-equipped to deal with the modern geographical realities of college football.

In an era where every school participates in nationally televised games, today’s student-athletes attend schools close to home.

Specifically, Division I prospects only venture 274 miles (median) away from their hometown for college.

Want to learn more about how far student-athletes travel to play in college? Check out the statistics in this beautiful infographic.

The growing importance of proximity has put the Wolverines at a disadvantage since statistically, there are more Power-5 football signees from SEC states, like Florida, than there are in Michigan and its surrounding states.

Given this access to top prospects, it’s easy to understand why the SEC has dominated college football in recent years. Harbaugh’s satellite spring practice is clearly an effort to broaden Michigan’s recruiting base and even the playing field.

Not so quiet period for Michigan football?

SEC and ACC coaches are particularly peeved at Harbaugh because his spring practices in Florida take place during a “quiet period,” meaning colleges are not allowed to recruit off campus. It seems by conducting practice at IMG, Harbaugh is able to legally circumvent the rules.

NCAA President Mark Emmert has not ruled out the possibility of closing the spring break loophole, telling the State.com that “there’s a difference between not being prohibited and being OK.”

Time will tell if Jim Harbaugh and Michigan will continue to hold spring break practice in Florida; however, he has already succeeded in keeping the Wolverines in the national spotlight throughout the off-season.


How far do you want to travel for college? You can add settings to your digital profile so college coaches in certain areas know that you’re interested in schools like theirs. Find out how to connect with college coaches by starting a recruiting profile.

About the author
Tom Johnson