In the Land of Gentlemen, the Three-Legged Man is King
By Tony Gerdeman
Having just wrapped up his first recruiting class at Ohio State, Urban Meyer likely thought that he would finally get a bit of a break from having to deal with the petulant ramblings of immature prima donnas.
Shows what he knows.
In the last day or so, both Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema and Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio have come out in vocal opposition of the way that Meyer attacked the 2012 recruiting class.
Terms like "illegal" and "unethical" were even tossed around.
Bielema, in consecutive days of speaking with the media, twice alluded to tactics and "illegal" practices that he apparently knew of Meyer engaging in.
Actually, he only alluded to it the first day. The second day he flat out accused Meyer of illegal recruiting methods.
What those methods were he wouldn't say, either day. He only wants us to know that they are illegal. That is the gist of his message.
"Urban Meyer is cheating, but it's not my place to tell you how."
Bielema's frustration undoubtedly lies in the fact that Meyer got Badger commit Kyle Dodson to switch to the Buckeyes on Signing Day.
What Bielema fails to tell anybody else, however, is that Wisconsin was never going to end up with Dodson. In the end, it was a battle between USC and Ohio State.
Wisconsin only stayed in the picture because...actually, who knows why they were still in the picture. Think of it as a recruiting photo bomb, I guess.
Some assume that Bielema's accusations stem from the violation of the used-to-be long-standing gentleman's agreement of not recruiting players who are committed to other schools.
This notion is so outdated as to now be the equivalent of parachute pants. Yes, it used to be the style, but looking at it now, it's a hideous way to leave the house.
And really, if we're going to talk about gentleman's agreements, what about the gentleman's agreement of not scoring 80 points on Indiana football?
If all Big Ten coaches are being respectful to eachother, then why would one of them go for two when they're already up by 25 points late in a game?
Regardless, Meyer did something that Bielema didn't like, and so not only did he call Meyer about it, he also called his athletic director Barry Alvarez, as well as Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.
After calling Meyer about it, Bielema claimed that "the situation got rectified", but that didn't stop him from singing his accusations to anybody willing to listen.
It's like getting into a fight with your brother while your parents are out, and then resolving it on your own. But once your parents get home, you go running to the front door and rehash every last pummel.
Normally, you would think talking to the culprit, your boss, and the commissioner of your conference would be enough, but not for Bret Bielema. He also had to make sure everybody else knew, for some reason.
Though he could only let them know so much. The rest is just too juicy for public ears!
You know those people who tell you they have a secret, but won't tell you what it is? They only tell you they have a secret so that you know that they know something that you don't. This is like that.
While most want to attribute the cries of illegal practices to the simple theft of a Badger commit, something more sinister had to have happened to get Bielema so ruffled.
Regardless of what kind of "gentleman's agreement" you think exists in the Big Ten, every handshake has a clause in it. Coaches have been flipping commitments from other Big Ten schools for years.
When Buckeye commit Tyvis Powell had set his announcement date—an announcement that didn't have much of a mystery to it—Wisconsin coaches rushed to Powell's high school to speak with him, but they were rebuffed by his head coach.
Powell's decision was made, and Wisconsin was too late. Rather than leave quietly, I'm told they made sure to mention the hellfire that the NCAA would soon be raining down on Ohio State.
Most would call that "negative recruiting", which is a tactic that is always frowned upon in public. But when Meyer was asked about teams using the NCAA situation against him, he didn't call it "negative recruiting", he called it "factual recruiting". He didn't whine or bellyache about what other schools were saying about his. It was simply a fact of life, and they approached it head on.
That's life in the recruiting game. Sometimes elbows are thrown.
And maybe Bielema thinks he took an elbow, because there's no way he could be so petty as to cry about losing a recruit to a coach that simply outworked him.
Mark Dantonio, on the other hand, does not appear to be above such weepery.
Like Bielema, Dantonio also lost a commit to Urban Meyer. Canton defensive end Se'Von Pittman, long assumed a Buckeye lean, committed to Michigan State three weeks after Jim Tressel stepped down at Ohio State.
The Buckeyes continued to recruit Pittman during the football season, even getting him to come to a game in September.
Once Meyer was hired, he also went to work on Pittman, who had been committed to the Spartans for almost six months. It took Meyer two weeks to get Pittman to switch his commitment to the Buckeyes. Clearly, his heart was in Columbus, not East Lansing.
How did the Pittman's switch come about?
"Se'Von Pittman had a relationship with Luke Fickell," Meyer explained on Signing Day.
"I think we helped it when I made that phone call. He recruited us after a little bit. The phone call went something like this. 'Are you interested?'
'Come on down for a visit.'
I get a phone call the next few days, 'Come on up, we got good news for you.'
Can't say I had a lot to do with that other than, 'Hey, let's go.' He always wanted to be an Ohio State Buckeye."
But Dantonio didn't see it that way, telling the Detroit News, "They've got a new coach, and it's different. I would say it's pretty unethical, in the end."
Mark Dantonio thinks recruiting a committed player is unethical. Then why did he have Wisconsin commit Kyle Dodson in for an official visit in January? Why did he and his staff continue to call Buckeye commit Tyvis Powell?
Why was a Spartan assistant coach at Cincinnati Taft trying to get an in-home visit with Adolphus Washington over a month after he had committed to Ohio State?
Is it selective ethics? Do as I say, not as I do?
Or maybe Dantonio is just getting forgetful these days.
After all, when he took the Michigan State job in 2007, he got a commitment from a linebacker who had been committed to Minnesota. That linebacker? Just some nobody named Greg Jones.
But it was understandable. Even though Minnesota was by far Jones' favorite, once Glen Mason got fired, he found himself without the coach that he had committed to. Enter Dantonio.
Was it unethical? Or was it merely just a change of situation for everybody involved?
Jones isn't alone in players that Dantonio has flipped, but I'm not going to go through all of them here.
What I would rather talk about is the polar shift in how Dantonio feels about the rules and boundaries given to new head coaches.
When he left Ohio State to take the head coaching job at Cincinnati in 2004, he revoked every scholarship offer to the Bearcats' verbal commits that he inherited. So of all people, he should understand new staffs and how they have to recruit.
He cut his entire recruiting class loose and he started brand new. Why?
In a online chat for the Cincinnati Enquirer shortly after his hiring he explained his decision.
"Revoking a scholarship is an immature way of talking about it. We simply restarted the recruiting process which was the best interest for everyone involved. These relationships need to be based on trust and honesty and that needs to be developed over time. We continued to reevaluate the recruits and we continue to evaluate them and make decisions that are the best for everyone involved."
So let me get this straight. As a new coach in 2004, he thought it was "in the best interest for everyone involved" to restart the recruiting process.
But yet in 2012, when newly-hired Urban Meyer and his staff restart their own recruiting process, it is now deemed unethical.
I'm forced to type his quote about Meyer once again.
"They've got a new coach, and it's different. I would say it's pretty unethical, in the end."
In 2004, being a new coach meant that you were free to restart your recruiting efforts. In 2012, being a new coach means that you are apparently stuck with what you've got.
"Sorry about your luck noob, hope you like being stuck with your team full of sucks!"
This is the level of logic that Meyer is being confronted with right now.
He has changed the entire landscape of the Big Ten, and rather than adjust to it, some can only complain and hurl damnations.
Coming from the SEC, Meyer must look at some of these Big Ten coaches like they are lazy, spoiled children; a complaint for every situation, and a solution for none.
Coaching has been a problem in the Big Ten over the last decade plus, and it's no wonder after hearing complaints like this.
When the hardest-working coach is also at the easiest place to sell, all an opposing coach has left is his arrogance and unrelenting desire for the status quo.
It's certainly an unenviable situation to be in, but there are no arms being twisted here. Coaches are free to drop down to a level where they feel comfortable.
Urban Meyer is either going to bring the Big Ten into the 21st century screaming, or leave it completely behind.
I think I know where Wisconsin and Michigan State fall in that regard, but I'm not going to tell you.
It's a secret!
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