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Big Ten coaches say they’re keeping distance from PSU players

Urban Meyer AP

Many would probably agree that the most crippling sanction levied against Penn State by NCAA president Mark Emmert was the mass reduction of scholarships over the next four years.

The penalty is two-fold: a reduction of 10 initial scholarships for the 2013-16 signing classes and 20 total scholarships from 2014-17, giving the Nittany lions a 65-scholarship player cap.

It could take several years before Penn State is able to recover from that, and the NCAA did them one more by opening the transfer gates, allowing any player wishing to leave to do so without the slightest restriction based on conference, head coach or otherwise. On paper, that sounds like a good idea. Transfer restrictions can be, and often are, absurd. But the counter argument in favor of them has always been the free-for-all that would inevitably follow.

And what a free-for-all it’s been already.

CBSSportsBruce Feldman was first to report the free agent frenzy, and as of Wednesday, members of Illinois’ coaching staff were apparently hanging out in State College trying to grab a player or two*.

(*Illinois coach Tim Beckman denied coaches being present at PSU, however)

“We have chosen to stay at Penn State and opposing coaches are outside our apartment, was that the intention of the NCAA?” tweeted Penn State defensive back Adrian Amos

Embellished or not, there was a chaotic vibe coming out of Happy Valley.

Day 1 of Big Ten media days was more subdued. Partially because Nittany Lions running back Silas Redd wasn’t in attendance — he’s reportedly very close to signing with USC — and partially due to other Big Ten, coaches taking a by and large less-controversial approach when it comes to poaching from their fellow Big Ten member.

Bret Bielema (Wisconsin), Brady Hoke (Michigan), Urban Meyer (Ohio State), Bo Pelini (Nebraska) and Kevin Wilson (Indiana) are among the coaches who said in one form or another that they would not actively pursue Penn State players.

“I made the decision as a head coach that we would not reach out to any Penn State players,” Bielema said. “One of the things that I’ve loved and appreciated about being in this conference is there is a genuine respect for everybody in our league. You are a Big Ten brethren.”

I have a problem with [recruiting Penn State’s players],” Meyer added. “I think if a player reaches out and says, ‘I’m outta here and I’m gone,’ a player has a right to do what he wants to do. But to go actively recruit, I have a problem with that.”

And, to be clear, that was the overall theme of coaches not wanting to get involved with Penn State: it would be the player, not the school, initiating the contact.

Maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t.

I’m a firm believer in the power of the coaching fraternity, where coaches generally look out for one another. And no other coach needs support like Penn State’s Bill O’Brien.

At the same time, the NCAA has made it abundantly clear that coaches are allowed to pursue any kid from Penn State that they want provided they give proper notification. Beckman and Purdue’s Danny Hope seemed less reserved — and, perhaps, more honest — about the possibility of recruiting Penn State.

“The NCAA has established the rules and the guidelines and obviously because they’re strong from an ethics standpoint, and as long as we’re compliant, we’re going to exercise every opportunity we can to enhance our own football team,” Hope said.

And ethics be damned, Hope, along with any other coach seizing the opportunity, is doing the exact same thing Penn State players are allowed to do: look out for No. 1.

Saying otherwise is a PR move, and actually refraining from actively recruiting Penn State is the more humane course of action. But doing the right thing doesn’t equal wins, which is the most the most important metric for college football coaches. If a player can provide immediate assistance somewhere else, the natural reaction is to make it happen.

Funny how the NCAA thought Penn State was the school in need of a culture change.

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15 Responses to “Big Ten coaches say they’re keeping distance from PSU players”
  1. js20011041 says: Jul 26, 2012 4:07 PM

    First of all, Urban Meyer is full of shit. Does anyone actually believe him? Second, does anyone believe any head coach? This idea that there are certain coaches that are corrupt and certain coaches that are clean is laughable. I guarantee you that you cannot find a Division 1A football coach that wouldn’t sell one of his kids for a national championship. Can’t be done.

  2. pftallday says: Jul 26, 2012 4:17 PM

    They think anyone from Penn State is a pedophile I guess.

  3. coolhorn says: Jul 26, 2012 4:21 PM

    It’s called “playing the game” and any savvy head coach knows how to play it well. There are ways to reach out to Penn State’s players, without it being apparent to those on the outside of the process.

    You can bet that every single Penn State player worth recruiting already knows very well just which schools are interested in his services.

    I saw all the players standing in unity earlier this week about hanging in at Penn State. However, reality will hit, probably sooner rather than later, and you can pretty much count on it that any Penn State player or recruit that has options will exercise those options. It’s not gonna be much fun for those that hang in with a virtually dead program, and it’s gonna be a lot longer than four years before the Nits become competitive again.

  4. Romulus says: Jul 26, 2012 4:39 PM

    Urbans comments are a shot at Lane Kiffin. They have bad history.

  5. thraiderskin says: Jul 26, 2012 5:00 PM

    I honestly think this is a tough call for B1G coaches. I wonder how many of them are wondering why this situation was even necessary? If PSU had been hit with sactions for more “traditional violations,” they (B1G coaches) probably wouldn’t have had much issue. Now I’m not saying these guys aren’t playing a PR game, but I do think they find this whole situation, from a conference and a football standpoint, unsavory. Quite honestly, I want my favorite team’s coach (Meyer) to, atleast, affirm with PSU players that the door is open, but I agree with the pretense that it is an unsavory situation. I suppose we will all see how it turns out in the coming weeks.

  6. mogogo1 says: Jul 26, 2012 6:44 PM

    “…actually refraining from actively recruiting Penn State is the more humane course of action.”
    ___________________________

    I don’t buy that. Stalking guys and acting like it’s the high school recruiting process all over again is certainly unseemly, but “actively recruiting” doesn’t have to rise to that level. Lots of PSU players must have considered other Big 10 schools initially and already know some of these other teams’ coaches. Reconnecting with a guy and letting him know you’d still be interested if he was considering a change isn’t inhumane. It’s offering him a fresh start far away from the very ugly situation that has become Penn State football.

  7. drarb says: Jul 26, 2012 7:16 PM

    And the ncaa wants to change the culture – so lets allow other coaches to recruit players from another team – the culture of the ncaa is all about money and not about the athletes because as we all know they are not students at most colleges. Emmert is an ass – LSU under his reign had less than a 60% grad rate and he talks about a culture change – look in your own pasty Emmert and then talk about a culture change – but he now looks tough and powerful, but not where it matters

  8. dkhhuey says: Jul 26, 2012 7:32 PM

    I for one am so glad Urban wasn’t one of the coaches stalking players on PSU’s campus. I am also glad that he has taken the stand to not actively pursue any players on their team! If a player reaches out to OSU I don’t see a problem with them evaluating that player to see if they are worth pursuing. When I read about other coaches on their campus I immediately thought how wrong that was! Kudos to the other Big Ten coaches for taking the same approach.

  9. pitch119 says: Jul 26, 2012 7:34 PM

    Funny how the media are portraying the open transfer sanction as a travesty – God forbid any of these players want to realize their lifelong dream in the wake of the school’s program basically being shut down. I can’t help but notice no one cried for USC when the same thing happened to them. (because 1 player took money without the knowledge of the school, not because senior administrators abetted a criminal for a decade).

  10. jlinatl says: Jul 26, 2012 8:44 PM

    Actively recruiting PSU kids is disgusting in my view.

    I think coolhorn had it exactly correct. The kids know. If you’ve started 20 games at PSU, I would be willing to bet you know you can play at Illinois. Just a gut feeling.

    If the kid wants to leave, let him make that decision and determine where he wants to go. I have no issue with a kid that decides to transfer or a coach accepting a kid that initiates it.

  11. florida727 says: Jul 27, 2012 8:05 AM

    Hard to fault Danny Hope. Purdue has had exactly ONE 10-win season since 1945. If he wants to make his mark in the game, he needs to do something very few of his predecessors have.

  12. noladave71 says: Jul 27, 2012 9:37 AM

    It has less to do with “respecting other coaches” than the strength of each coaches program. My guess is that there are very few, if any, players that are going to make an immediate impact to OSU, UM, and UW. As such, it’s easy for Meyer, Hoke and Bielema to be above the fray. I don’t blame the coaches of them teams that are worse than PSU to be recruiting any players they think can help them win. Respect of other B1G coaches means nothing if you get fired because you lose too many games.

  13. noladave71 says: Jul 27, 2012 9:38 AM

    It has less to do with “respecting other coaches” than the strength of each coach’s program. My guess is that there are very few, if any, players that are going to make an immediate impact to OSU, UM, and UW. As such, it’s easy for Meyer, Hoke and Bielema to be above the fray. I don’t blame the coaches of them teams that are worse than PSU to be recruiting any players they think can help them win. Respect of other B1G coaches means nothing if you get fired because you lose too many games.

  14. edavidberg says: Jul 27, 2012 12:02 PM

    This is bull crap. They never said they would not accept PSU transfers. They said they would not actively do so. Which means they are pretending to take the high ground but can still take any player they want to.

    Why on earth is it immoral to call a kid and let him know what your program has to offer? If it is immoral why are OSU, Wisconsin, etc. so good at it when it comes to younger and more impressionable high school kids.

    What a bunch of phonies.

  15. frank booth says: Jul 27, 2012 4:02 PM

    Urban Meyer is a liar. Ohio State is maxed out on scholarships. He’d be parked in the center PSU’s football stadium if he wasn’t.

    But then again, he wouldn’t be that visible. He’s much more underhanded than that.

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