Ohio State Introduces Urban Meyer

Update: Bielema doesn’t want Big Ten ‘to be like the SEC in any way, shape or form’


In the two months following his hiring by Ohio State, Urban Meyer took what was shaping up to be a middle-of-the-road recruiting class and turned it into a consensus top-five group by the time National Signing Day 2012 had been put to bed.

In getting to as high as No. 3 in the Scout.com rankings, Meyer and his coaching staff flipped several highly-touted recruits, including some who had been verbally committed to other Big Ten schools.  Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State all felt the Meyer Effect in one way or the other on the recruiting trail, and it was the latter two programs that have not been shy about expressing their “displeasure” with the recruiting tactics that have brought to the conference.

Wednesday, Cleveland Heights (Ohio) offensive tackle Kyle Dodson announced that he was signing a Letter of Intent with Ohio State.  The four-star lineman had been a verbal commitment to UW since last June, but began to lean toward OSU after Meyer came on board.

While not specifically addressing the Dodson flip, UW head coach Bret Bielema told reporters that he had prior concerns over what he considered recruiting tactics on the part of the new OSU regime that were — his word — illegal.  As a result, Bielema claims to have spoken to Meyer about the situation and resolved whatever issue there was.

“There’s a few things that happened early on that I made people be aware of, that I didn’t want to see in this league, that I had seen take place in other leagues,” Bielema said during his signing day press conference yesterday. “Other recruiting tactics, other recruiting practices, that are illegal.

“I was very upfront, very pointed to the fact — actually reached out to coach Meyer and shared my thoughts and concerns with him. The situation got rectified.”

One of the issues — albeit not an illegal one — is Meyer “breaking” an unwritten agreement among Big Ten coaches in which, once a prospect commits to a program in the conference, other coaches decline to actively recruit the player.  Meyer “broke” that “gentleman’s agreement” in the case of Dodson, as well as in the recruitment of Se’Von Pittman.

The four-star Canton, Oh., defensive end had long been a Michigan State commit, but flipped to the Buckeyes after Meyer’s hiring.  Like Bielema, the Spartans took issue with Meyer doing something that “Jim Tressel and Mark Dantonio would never” do: “call or talk to each other’s commitments.”

“It sets a tone and starts a recruiting rivalry,” MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said the Monday before signing day. “I guess it’s fair game. You don’t want it to be that way, but that’s how it is.”

Narduzzi went on to add that “you lose friendships over that.”  We’re guessing that Meyer’s not going to be losing a lot of sleep over the loss of conference friends.

At his post-signing day press conference, Meyer explained the process of continuing to recruit a player who’s already given a verbal elsewhere.

“Sometimes they say, ‘How can you go recruit a young guy committed to another school?'” Meyer said. “You ask a question, ‘Are you interested?’ If they say, ‘No,’ you move on. If they say, ‘Yes, very interested,’ then you throw that hook out there. If they’re interested, absolutely [you recruit them], especially from your home state. Is it gratifying to take a guy from another school? Not at all.”

While it may be “pretty unethical” what Meyer is doing, at least in comparison to how business has been conducted in the Big Ten in the past, it is far from illegal and is not going anywhere.  So, if the rest of the conference — Michigan notwithstanding; they’re doing just fine thank you very much — wants to avoid being run roughshod over on an annual basis in the recruiting game, they might want to consider adjusting to the new “recruiting rules” in the conference.

OSU’s hated rival already has; I’d suggest the rest of the conference respond in kind.  For better or worse, Meyer has brought an SEC way to the Big Ten recruiting trail.  Keep up, or future signing day tramplings could very well in the offing.

UPDATED 6:29 p.m. ET: It’s official.  Meyer is in Bielema’s head.

Speaking to Matt Hayes of The Sporting News, Bielema stated that his boss, athletic director Barry Alavarez, will speak to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany about Meyer’s recruiting tactics during a meeting in Chicago Friday.  Bielema again complained about the recruiting practices utilized by Meyer and his OSU, hinting that whatever it was they were doing — Bielema would not delve into specifics as he seems more secure with blanket accusations made publicly — was illegal.

The biggest issue for Bielema, as well as Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, is Meyer flipping recruits that had previously been committed to another program.  The gentleman’s agreement that existed prior to Meyer’s arrival in the Big Ten?  It doesn’t exist in Meyer’s old SEC stomping grounds.  And, much to the chagrin of Bielema, it doesn’t exist in Meyer’s recruiting version of the Big Ten either.

“I can tell you this,” Bielema told Hayes. “We at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC—in any way, shape or form.”

As the SEC has won the BcS title each of the past six years, and the Big Ten hasn’t won one since after the 2001 season, consider it mission accomplished, Coach Bielema.

Of course, we’re also talking about a head coach who went for two up by four touchdowns with six minutes left against Minnesota, and whose Badgers hung 83 points on conference foe Indiana, so the angst Bielema’s displaying about “fairness” should be taken with a significantly sized grain of salt.

Win over Grambling approved, Cal officially becomes bowl eligible

Jared Goff
Associated Press
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Earlier today we had the report that Cal, they of the normally bowl-eligible six wins on the season, were not actually bowl eligible. The hang up was due to some NCAA red tape on how many scholarships Grambling, a 73-14 victim to the Bears on opening Saturday, had actually awarded this year.

Why the number of scholarships awarded by an opponent of a 6-5 team could determine what glorified exhibition said 6-5 could or could not play is a matter for another time, but the fact is it mattered.

But according to a report from Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com, the Bears received approval to count the win toward their total, meaning Sonny Dykes and company will go bowling for the first time since 2011.

“We have conferred with both Grambling and the NCAA,” Cal spokesman Wes Mallette told ESPN. “As anticipated, Grambling has confirmed their football program has met the 90 percent financial aid requirement over the rolling two-year average. Therefore, Cal football’s win over Grambling counts toward bowl eligibility. Cal football is bowl eligible.”

The Bears have a chance to become bowl eligible the old fashioned way with a win over Arizona State Saturday in Berkeley.


Tulane reportedly set to fire head coach Curtis Johnson

Curtis Johnson
Associated Press
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The end of the college football regular season brings with it bowl bids, conference championship entries and rivalry games. Along the way, though, come end-of-season firings. So many end of-season firings.

According to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today Wednesday night, the first one is already on the books. Or at least close to it.

Wolken reports Tulane is set to part ways with head coach Curtis Johnson following the Green Wave’s Friday finale against Tulsa “barring a last-minute change of direction.”

Johnson is 15-33 in nearly four complete seasons at Tulane, reaching a high point of a 7-6 mark wtih a New Orleans Bowl appearance in 2013 but winning two, three and three games in his other three campaigns.

If and when the move becomes official, Tulane will become the 15th FBS school to change head coaches this season, matching the total number of changes during the 2014-15 cycle.

Wolken reports Tulane will hire a new athletics director within the next week, and once that hiring is complete the school will then embark on hiring Johnson’s replacement.

Reports: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a “strong candidate” for Maryland vacancy

D.J. Durkin
Associated Press

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged a “strong candidate” for the Maryland job, according to reports from Yahoo‘s Pat Forde and Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman Wednesday.

“Durkin, 37, met recently with Maryland officials, sources said,” Forde wrote. “No job offer was made, but the interview went well, sources said.”

Added Feldman:

Durkin is in his first season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, helping the 9-2 Wolverines jump from 14th to third nationally in yards per play allowed (4.77 to 4.15) and 27th to sixth in scoring defense (22.4 to 14.9).

Prior to working on Jim Harbaugh‘s staff, Durkin served as Will Muschamp‘s defensive coordinator at Florida for two years, and as his special teams coordinator for two years before that. He previously worked at Stanford, Bowling Green (his alma mater) and Notre Dame.

Should he be offered and accept the job, Durkin would immediately become Big Ten East rivals with his mentor Harbaugh.

“This week is so important to our guys, my 100% focus is on this game and our players — that’s what this profession is all about. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of the job you have week in and week out. It’s a tough task, especially with this team we have this week,” Durkin told the Detroit Free Press when asked about the reports.

“My goal is to get the best game plan possible together for Ohio State and have our guys go play well. To answer rumors or speculation right now and put something to it, my total focus is 100% on Ohio State and nothing else.”

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
Associated Press

Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.