Monday Morning Kickoff: Poaching and Coaching
By Tony Gerdeman
* One of the big topics of discussion during the Big Ten media days was the proactive "poaching" of Penn State's players by Big Ten coaches. Tim Beckman, Kirk Ferentz and Danny Hope were all for it (even if they tried not to admit it), while most everyone else said they'd have to be contacted by a player for them to begin any type of recruiting process.
If you're asking me—and you are—the majority of the coaches are against recruiting Penn State's players because they wouldn't want other coaches coming after their players. It has very little to do with the player, instead it has almost everything to do with the coaches.
If you look at it from the player's perspective, why shouldn't they have an opportunity to move on, and why shouldn't coaches make it known that those players are welcome?
If this was Beggars' Night, only three houses on the Big Ten's block would have their porch lights on, despite each house being full of candy.
Why is it suddenly shameful to want to help out a student athlete? Is it because a coach would then be perceived as helping himself out at the same time? Who cares? Doesn't the NCAA help student athletes, and don't they also help themselves? Television contracts don't just pay for tournaments, you know. I can see no difference between what a coach would be doing and what the NCAA already does.
When Danny Hope was asked if he was recruiting Penn State's players, he referred to the rules that the NCAA had laid down.
"[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."
Why can't he just say, "Yes, we will be making some calls to Penn State. The players were put in a difficult situation, and if they want out of that situation, then we're willing to give them a hand."
Is it because there is no concern for the player, and instead the coach only sees how this reflects upon himself?
This should be about helping players, but it seems like the coaches can't help but make it about themselves.
When Kirk Ferentz was asked if he was going to be recruiting some Nittany Lions—after it had already been reported that he had contacted Penn State, per the guidelines handed down by the NCAA—he feigned ignorance about the rule altogether.
Like $4 million-dollar-a-year coaches don't know a beneficial rule when they see one.
"The thing I would say about the whole situation, I think it's really complex right now and very confusing, quite frankly, just what the rules are," he said.
"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."
Keep in mind that the answer is "Yes", but he never said it once. If you are asked a question that you don't want to answer, and the correct answer is "Yes", but you dance around the question and never answer it properly, what does that usually mean?
Either he's ashamed of the answer, or he just doesn't want to provide fodder.
Coaches love to give non-answers in a flood of words because they know the next question will likely be a different subject and then they can just move on. This is what Ferentz did. At least Danny Hope was brave enough to hide behind the NCAA.
If college football is about helping students, then every school in the country that had room or interest should have made overtures to Penn State.
Imagine a fleet of crab boats out in the middle of the ocean. One of the boats sinks, but everybody makes it out on life rafts. Other boats could come to their rescue, but they are afraid to offer help "because of how it might look", or because they wouldn't want other captains rescuing their crew if they themselves were to ever be stranded.
It's a life preserver, not a noose. Feel free to use it.
* Even though they are free to leave, there has been a slew of current Nittany Lions who have stated their intentions to stay with Penn State and coach Bill O'Brien. Similarly, there are currently a dozen verbal commitments in Penn State's 2013 recruiting class. Most, if not all, have said that they are staying.
Some, if not all, will eventually go back on their word.
It's easy to be strong when everybody is being strong with you. But when the season starts, and the coaches are preoccupied, other coaches will come in and delight them with promises of the non-probation kind.
However, people get too hung up on bowl games. Yeah, they're probably fun, but no team with 65 scholarship players is going to a bowl game anyway. Losing a bowl game only hurts so much, it's losing every other game that will hurt more.
After the commits get to see Penn State in action this year, and they begin to realize that things are going to get worse before they get better, they'll start taking official visits to other schools, and then they will sign with those other schools.
* I thought it was interesting during Michigan coach Brady Hoke's portion of Thursday's media day when he said that he looked at Penn State's roster before deciding that they weren't going to do any recruiting. It made me wonder if the Big Ten's coaches would have been so noble if it was Ohio State's roster that was wide open.
Is there a school in the conference that wouldn't have made a call to OSU in order to talk to Braxton Miller or Johnathan Hankins or John Simon?
Being noble is a piece of cake when the decision is a simple one to make.
* Illinois coach Tim Beckman certainly got off on the wrong foot when it comes to his fellow Big Ten coaches. Sending over a half-dozen coaches to State College and setting up a satellite recruiting office was seen as fairly dastardly for the gentlemanly Big Ten.
However, I don't think Beckman really cares. He's not going to get a better job by cowering down to the rest of the Big Ten. He's going to talk loud and talk fast, and he's not going to worry about the wake that he leaves.
He's even trying to build up a rivalry with Northwestern. The Wildcats are peaceful creatures, but Beckman doesn't care.
Nerds aren't even safe around this guy.
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