When building a football program, coaches spend enormous amounts of time and resources recruiting players across the country. However, having a player resign from another school and show up on a coaches doorstep is a very unique situation. That situation certainly exists this offseason.
Due to the violations and probations at Penn State University, every Nittany Lion football player has the option of applying to a different university to play this upcoming season.
All 12 coaches voiced their opinion on the matter Thursday at the Big Ten Media Days at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago.
First at the podium was Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, who said that his coaching staff “would not reach out to any Penn State players.”
“I’m not casting doubt on anybody or questioning anything, but we made a decision that we would not actively pursue any Penn State players. And it wasn’t anything more than I have a group of 105 players that are reporting on August 5th that I want them to understand and believe that I think they can help us win another championship. And to bring someone in at this point so close to the season, I just wasn’t comfortable with it.”
Northwestern’s head coach Pat Fitzgerald added that “we had a very short and brief discussion as a coaching staff that, number one, we’re excited about our team, we’re focused on our team, and no way, shape, or form are we going to pursue, contact, or reach out to Penn State University.”
A few other coaches stated that they wouldn’t pursue Penn State football players, but they wouldn’t say no to a player who wanted to join their program.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say we didn’t look at the roster to some degree,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke stated, “but we’ve kind of made a decision that we’re going to stay and recruit the guys and keep our business our business.”
Added Nebraska coach Bo Pelini: “We’re concentrating on our football team, the guys on our program. And, now, that isn’t to say that if there is a young man from Penn State who definitely wanted to transfer and was for sure going to leave and Nebraska was someplace that he was considering, that we wouldn’t take a look at him to see if it made sense for our program.”
Head coach Jerry Kill of Minnesota stated that he has “enough problems” on his hands and just wants to move forward as a football program.
“So we’re not going to do anything to go see players,” Kill said. “We don’t have enough time to do those kind of things. We’ve got to concentrate on our football team and our football program. And if a young man called us from Penn State or whatever, we’d do the proper procedures.”
Mark Dantonio had somewhat of the same perception as Pelini and Kill, but gave a more in-depth analysis.
“What we’ve tried to do is first acknowledge the situation. I don’t think there’s any winners when you speak to that entire situation. But at the same time, acknowledge that we have a program that we have to run and try and get better. And so what we have done is if people have contacted us, a coach, a parent, we’ve followed through. And that’s the extent of it. And if there’s people that are receptive to that and come back with us, I understand that. I’m here to create opportunities, but we’re not going to invest in going beyond that. I would want to do this with respect to Penn State in any way that I can with integrity. But at the same time, we have a job to do, and we do have relationships with some players that have gone there because we recruited them at an earlier time.”
Still, other coaches said they didn’t fully understand the rules yet.
“To actively go get a player on another team, I’m not sure — I really don’t understand the rules,” Ohio State’s Urban Meyer said. “I didn’t look into it. I’m not really sure of the rules with that. But as a player, a young man has a right to play wherever he wants to play. We have to keep that in mind. However, when he’s part of a team, you’re getting into a situation that I’m not quite very familiar with, and we’re not going to get very familiar with it.”
Added Indiana’s Kevin Wilson: “The one rule that I don’t understand is how I can oversign and some team have more than 85 guys on scholarship and other teams don’t have that right. That’s a competitive advantage to another school.”
Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz was the last to speak Thursday: “I think it’s really complex right now and very confusing, quite frankly, just what the rules are. So I think first and foremost, everybody needs to be compliant. I think after that, it’s a matter of people doing what they feel is appropriate. And that’s what we try to do as much as possible. We’ll try to continue to do the same moving forward.”
Tim Beckman of Illinois and Danny Hope of Purdue weren’t shy at all about speaking their mind.
“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.
Beckman and his Illini staff actually traveled to State College and said he didn’t feel bad about it at all.
“We were in State College, but we did not go on campus. We went to two establishments outside campus and called some individuals and if they wanted to come by, it was their opportunity to come by.”
Finally, the one man who is on the negative side of this is first-year Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien, although he doesn’t see it that way.
“I see it as an opportunity,” O’Brien said. “I see it as a little bit of adversity that we need to overcome. I talked to them (his players) about their commitment to each other. I talked to them about the bond that they’ve formed with this football staff, a fantastic staff that cares about their players, good teachers, good men, good fathers. I talked to them about adversity. And the measure of a man is how you overcome adversity. I talked to them about without a shadow of a doubt they’re going to be able to play six to seven Bowl games per year in front of 108,000 screaming fans in Beaver Stadium and I expect it to be 108,000 fans in Beaver Stadium. I talked to them about this staff and our ability to develop these guys for the National Football League. I told them this staff isn’t going anywhere and we’re committed to the 2012 football team.”
It will be interesting to see if any of the other Penn State football players are actually wearing a different uniform this fall. I anticipate that most players will stay at Penn State due to intense school loyalty.
What do you think?