- Feb 10, 2005
- Reaction score
- Montgomery, Al
Reality rips holes in Big Ten's holier-than-thou stance toward the SEC
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama - Illinois head coach Tim Beckman wanted to make one thing perfectly clear Thursday at Big Ten Media Days.
Despite what you may have read on Twitter, his assistant coaches did not go Nittany Lion hunting on the Penn State campus this week in search of free agents.
They did it just off campus. Eight Illinois assistants set up camp at two different local restaurants in State College.
"We went to two establishments outside campus and called some individuals," Beckman said, "and if they wanted to come by, it was their opportunity to come by."
They did it by the rules, the Illinois AD and compliance boss notifying the Penn State athletics department before the coaches hit the road, but they did do it. Beckman was asked if he felt the need to apologize for his program's recruiting blitz through the fresh ashes of Penn State's sanctions.
"Not at all," he said. "We're just following the rules of the NCAA."
Good for Beckman. At least someone in the Big Ten is following the rules.
Beckman's approach may have something to do with the fact that this is his first year in the league, but it's refreshing just the same because this is the way college football works. This is the way it works in the SEC, where they don't pretend otherwise, and in the Big Ten, where they often do.
It's nice to know there are people in the Big Ten that aren't self-righteous and hypocritical, that don't act as if their conference is the Ivy League with bigger stadiums.
How long has the Big Ten looked down its upturned nose at the SEC? About as long as Ohio State's been losing bowl games to SEC teams. That would be forever, except for that one time when the Buckeyes got a special dispensation for their unethical coach at the time to use ineligible players.
That Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas was later vacated, but hey, it must've been sweet while it lasted.
It didn't take the worst scandal in the history of college sports happening at a Big Ten program, a program whose football culture was so out of balance it broke the scale, to know that Jim Delany's little kingdom always has had its own cracks in its own castle walls.
But this summer has been especially instructive along those lines. Resurgent Michigan is going to open its season against reigning national champion Alabama in the Cowboys Classic. Which head coach is trying to decide whether two players that got arrested this summer will play in that game?
Sorry to disappoint Ralph Cindrich, but it's not Nick Saban. It's Brady Hoke.
While most leagues with two divisions look forward to thrilling races this season to determine who'll meet in the conference championship game, one league has lost one-third of one division to NCAA sanctions that include no postseason.
The SEC West? Nope. The real wild, wild west is the Big Ten's Leaders Division, where Penn State and Ohio State must stay home for the holidays on an NCAA-mandated timeout, giving Wisconsin a walk-through all the way to Indianapolis.
When Mike Slive included the "no one person or program" segment in his opening address at SEC Media Days last week, he couldn't have delivered a stronger message if he'd simply said, "We are NOT Penn State."
It's not fair to blame an entire conference for criminal activity and a cover-up at one of its member institutions, but that's the point. Perhaps the Big Ten should stop patting itself on the back for its strict stance on oversigning, as admirable as that stance is, and start competing.
Without arrogance or apology.
Gerry DiNardo understands. He coached in the SEC at Vanderbilt and LSU. He coached in the Big Ten at Indiana. Now an analyst for the Big Ten Network, DiNardo said he has no problem with any head coaches sending their assistants to State College to try to pick up a free agent or two.
Matter of fact, he said, if he were still a head coach, and he told his assistants to go get a Penn State player, he would expect them to do whatever it took within the rules to get that done.
Is that colder than an Ann Arbor winter? Maybe, but that's the way the game is played. Within the rules. Most Big Ten coaches said they wouldn't make the first move to recruit any Penn State players, but if the player made the first move, they would talk.
"I made the decision as a head coach that we would not reach out to any Penn State players," Wisconsin's Bret Bielema said.
The Badgers have no need. They've already landed Danny O'Brien to succeed Russell Wilson as their graduate transfer rent-a-quarterback for this season.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Not in the SEC or the Big Ten.