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Kelsey Brunner, Deseret News
Hebron Fangupo gives the young men a pre-drill pep talk about giving it their all during the afternoon session of the All-Poly Camp in Sandy on Friday, June 16, 2017. "I played for USC for six years until my body said no mas," says Fangupo about his own football career.
It just goes to show the level of support and commitment we get from coaches across the country. They stayed with it and couldn’t be more grateful to each and every person that continues to make this thing happen. Every single one of them. —Alema Te'o

SANDY — The All-Poly Camp has worked through a good share of obstacles over the 18 years since Alema Te'o first founded it, but none close to the one placed in front of it by the NCAA this past year.

At a glance, everything is normal with the camp, which bills itself as the No. 1 non-institutional football camp in America. But the fact that it is indeed non-institutional has put its very existence in jeopardy.

The NCAA has cracked down heavily on off-campus camps over the past couple of years, particularly non-institutional camps which involve collegiate coaches.

“There’s too many camps that do illegal things,” Te’o, Alta High School's head football coach, said. “I sat in on the meeting and it was explained that too many third-party types or street agents were involved trying to promote whatever and exchanging money and making coaching promises. I get their concern, I really do, but I just wish they’d make a better effort to understand just what we do and the benefits we provide.”

The meeting Te'o attended was held in Nashville shortly after last year's All-Poly camp concluded. Since that time he's worked furiously to find whatever way possible to keep the All-Poly camp alive with everything that makes it what it is — most notably the involvement of top collegiate coaches.

Te'o tried everything to remedy the situation, but it wasn't until getting in contact with Southern Virginia coach Joe DuPaix when things finally became rectified, just days before the camp was set to begin.

DuPaix, who has strong ties to the local community, was in town and began the discussion with Te'o the Thursday before the All-Poly camp was set to begin. They worked quickly and finally found a resolution shortly after the initial discussions.

“Every other option just kind of fell through until Southern Virginia came to the forefront last Friday,” Te’o said. “They said they’d be interested in coming in on a relationship with us and we sealed the deal at 10 p.m. last Friday.”

Southern Virginia essentially became the institution running the All-Poly camp, in conjunction with Te'o's staff, establishing a loophole as a Division III football program.

According to Te'o, the current NCAA camp rules stipulate that only Divison I programs aren't allowed to be associated with off-campus camps, but allows Division II and Division III programs to do as such.

For Southern Virginia football, the decision to associate with the All-Poly camp was a no-brainer, considering how the University embraces the standards of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and therefore recruits the state of Utah heavily.

“When we found out about it was an easy decision,” DuPaix said. “I’m just so grateful to Alema to allow us the opportunity to be involved with such a great camp. It’s a complete win for Southern Virginia, and what we are, but it’s also a great camp that needs to keep doing what it has for so many years.”

“They win on all angles, and we’re certainly happy that they are. They certainly deserve it, as far as I’m concerned,” Te’o added.

Had Southern Virginia not come through in the last minute, the All-Poly camp would have been inherited by the University of Utah, according to Te'o, which would have precluded his involvement, as well as that of many others.

“If we went to the University of Utah then me and my staff — we’d be out of the picture,” Te’o said. “It would have been strictly a Utah thing and no one would have been allowed to come in and partner with Utah.”

Stepping aside would have been an enormous bitter pill to swallow for Te'o, who founded the camp back in 1999, as a means to help prepare local football players for the collegiate level. Somewhat ironically, it was Utah, along with Oregon State, who worked arduously with Te'o to keep his camp intact, despite the fact it would undoubtedly benefit by inheriting it.

“Utah and Oregon State really guided me through the whole process,” Te’o explained. “I’d call their compliance guys all the time — probably enough that I’m surprised they just didn’t start hanging up on me. But they gave me great intel and allowed us to get to this point. If it wasn’t for them, we don’t make it.”

It certainly appeared as if the All-Poly camp wouldn't make it as late as Friday, although Te'o encouraged his always willing staff to stay patient and hope for a miracle.

“It just goes to show the level of support and commitment we get from coaches across the country,” Te’o said. “They stayed with it and couldn’t be more grateful to each and every person that continues to make this thing happen. Every single one of them.”

Te'o also expressed a lot of gratitude to the many collegiate programs that have been involved with his camp throughout the years — particularly Utah.

“Their deal was they wanted to do what is in the best interest for the kids and for this camp,” Te’o said. “And that’s what it’s all about and that’s what it’s always been about. Utah has been involved with it for a long time and they get that. So I couldn’t be more grateful to them, but also to Oregon State, Utah State, BYU — all the great programs that continue to support what we do here.”

Although this year's battle is behind him, Te'o believes he'll be fighting a new one shortly.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Te’o said regarding the NCAA's next move. “I mean they’ve changed their stance three different times with certain things. So we cannot rely on the current information because our experience is the rule is going to change and there’s going to be more questions that arise. We’re anticipating it and hopefully we can get ready for it.”

It's a fight Te'o is more than willing to fight, considering everything he's put into his camp through the years, along with all those willing to dedicate time and resources.

“I’ve put in too much time just to walk away, but that’s not the main reason. It’s not about me and it’s not about any of us, individually,” Te’o said. “It’s about the kids. It’s about giving them the best opportunity possible and that’s why we have so many people behind us — so many people fighting for us.”

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney