Meyer Confused by Uproar

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Last updated: 12/22/2011 2:18 PM

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Meyer Confused by Uproar Over NCAA Waiver
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has caused quite a stir with his “double secret” waiver from the NCAA that allows the Buckeyes to work with two coaching staffs during the month of December.

If nothing else, it has caused an uproar in Ann Arbor, where Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon called it a “bloated coaching staff” in Columbus. Comments like that came as a surprise to Meyer, who was unaware that his presence had caused such a stir.

“I don’t get that,” Meyer said with a look of confusion on his face.

“And I’m not being critical. I haven’t heard his criticism. I haven’t listened.”

Good thing, because Brandon is telling anyone who will listen about his distaste for the NCAA waiver that allows Meyer to recruit and assemble his new coaching staff while interim head coach Luke Fickell—who will remain on staff as defensive coordinator—prepares Ohio State for the Jan. 2 Gator Bowl against Florida.

Forget the fact that Michigan received a similar waiver from the NCAA when it hired Rich Rodriguez to replace Lloyd Carr in Dec. 2007.

“No one will ever convince me of the merits of allowing anyone — including the University of Michigan — to have this kind of advantage, or that this is sensible in terms of being a fair and equitable approach,” Brandon told The Detroit News last week.

“Our coaches right now are sleep-deprived. They've got to plan to get 130 people to New Orleans, practicing and preparing a game plan and doing all the things coaches do, and yet this is one of the busiest recruiting seasons of the year.”

The Wolverines play Virginia Tech in the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl, which means Michigan head coach Brady Hoke and his assistants have to balance their time between coaching and recruiting.

That is where the bulk of Brandon’s fury has been directed, especially with National Signing Day rapidly approaching. However, Meyer is confused by the notion Ohio State is operating with two completely different coaching staffs.

“There’s two (additional) coaches,” Meyer said with a furrowed brow.

“(Offensive coordinator) Tom Herman and myself, that are recruiting. So I hear these ‘two different staffs,’ unless someone knows something I don’t.”

Under the rules of this NCAA waiver, no more than seven coaches can be out recruiting at one time, with no more than 10 being involved in Ohio State’s recruiting process while the two staffs are in place.

This concept is nothing new. The NCAA has granted at least six of these waivers over the last five years—including the one for Michigan and Rodriguez in 2007. They have also received similar waiver requests from five different schools—including the University of Illinois—in the past month alone.

“Seven years ago we did the same thing,” Meyer said.

“When I went to Florida we did the same things six, seven years ago. When I went to Utah we did the same thing. Every coaching staff does that. So I’m not sure where that (comes from)…it’s two guys.”

The only coaches who have been out recruiting with Meyer since he took over the program last month are Fickell, Stan Drayton, Mike Vrabel, Taver Johnson and Tom Herman, who is currently serving as the offensive coordinator at Iowa State.

Other than Herman—who is splitting his time between the two programs—the other four assistants were already working for Ohio State before Meyer took the job. All four of them will also remain on staff under Meyer after the bowl game, but Brandon seems to be having a hard time with the details.

“I don't get it. Because of circumstances, you're able to have a bloated coaching staff and divide responsibilities and focus,” he told The Detroit News.

“My coaches are running around, having to be at three places at once, and so is every other coaching staff in the country. But that changes if you can go to Indianapolis (NCAA headquarters) and get a piece of paper that says you can have two coaching staffs. One can coach, and the other can go recruit.”

Therein lies the problem for Brandon and Michigan: Meyer is killing it on the recruiting trail since taking the job. In less than a month, he has already rocked the Midwest recruiting scene with verbal commitments from three major defensive line prospects.

“We are jumping in knee deep in (recruiting),” Meyer said this week.

“The good thing is there was a solid class here. We’ve been able to have great communication with those guys. The reception has been very good. That’s a tribute to Coach Fickell and those guys and what they did and a tribute to this great institution and what it stands for.”

Two of Meyer’s commitments—defensive end Se’Von Pittman (Michigan State) and defensive tackle Tommy Schutt (Penn State)—had been committed to other Big Ten schools before Meyer took the job at Ohio State. The third player, defensive end Noah Spence, was one of the most coveted prospects in the country.

Although the practice is well within allowable NCAA and Big Ten rules, Brandon is upset that Meyer, in particular, gets to focus all of his attention on recruiting instead of coaching. Or maybe he is just upset that Michigan failed to fully utilize the waiver when they hired Rodriguez four years ago.

“The way it was explained to me by our compliance people is that when Rich came in, there was a quiet period where you could not do off-campus recruiting,” said Brandon, who became Michigan's athletic director in March 2010.

“We got a waiver so that Rich could make phone calls. That's very different from forming a staff and getting on the recruiting trail.”

That part, at least, Meyer is not going to deny.

“I guess if you said focus, I’m not worried about practice in period four and throwing a curl vs. a…,” he said with a pause.

And then he smiled.

That part will really get under Brandon’s skin.

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