As expected, the situation at Penn State was the main topic of conversation at the 41st annual Big Ten media days on Thursday in Chicago.
Tim Beckman, Urban Meyer and Bill O'Brien talked PSU transfers on Thursday
On Monday, the NCAA hit Penn State with a $60 million fine, a four-year postseason ban and major scholarship sanctions in wake of an investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh into whether top PSU officials and longtime coach Joe Paterno were involved in a cover-up of child sexual abuse incidents perpetrated by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
The Big Ten followed suit and docked Penn State of about $13 million in projected bowl revenues as well. Commissioner Jim Delany believed the NCAA and the Big Ten had a “moral authority” to act.
“A lot of people worry and wonder about whether or not what the NCAA did is a precedent,” Delany said. “I don't really care if it's a precedent. I don't really care about whether or not they had jurisdiction or whether or not there was an underlying NCAA violation. There's been a lot of debate by pundits one way or the other.
“The only thing that matters to me is I think the NCAA did have moral authority to act, and I think the Big Ten had moral authority to act. I think that the Freeh report, which has been accepted by the institution, adopted by the NCAA and the Big Ten as a result of Penn State accepting that report is a narrative which is based on a reasonable view of the evidence.
“There's still some who may debate it. But for purposes of moving forward, it is the record that's now been adopted by the institution. It's led to the NCAA sanctions. It's led to the Big Ten sanctions.”
As part of those sanctions, PSU players were granted the right to transfer without sitting out a year. There were reports that Illinois flew no fewer than eight assistant coaches to State College in an effort to recruit players. But first-year Illinois coach Tim Beckman denied reports that his staff members were soliciting players in the school parking lot.
"We were in State College, but we did not go on campus," Beckman said. "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."
Beckman added, "We're just following the rules of the NCAA.”
If Illinois was overt in its pursuit of Penn State players, other Big Ten schools were largely mixed on that topic. Purdue coach Danny Hope and Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio discussed the balance of maintaining integrity but also trying to maintain a competitive advantage.
"I want to do this with respect to Penn State in any way that I can with integrity," Dantonio said. "But at the same time, we do have a job to do."
Hope said he and his coaches would listen if PSU players called.
"As long as we're compliant, we're going to exercise every opportunity we can to enhance our own football team,” he said.
To his credit, first-year Penn State coach Bill O’Brien has taken the high road since Monday’s announcement.
“We are honored to be here and honored to be in this conference,” O’Brien said. “We've got a great staff, we've got a tough smart football team. Our fans need to get on board and our lettermen need to get on board. We want to move forward."
O’Brien said he implored his players to stay put during team meetings this week. He discussed the educational opportunities they have at Penn State. He also talked about their commitment to each other and the bond they have formed with this staff. He also talked to them about facing adversity, including his own story on how he and his wife have dealt with having a special needs son.
“The measure of a man is how you overcome adversity,” O’Brien said.
Although Penn State can’t play in a bowl game now until 2016 at the earliest, O’Brien said he hopes his team will “play six or seven bowl games a year -- in front of 110,000 at Beaver Stadium.”
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said, other than the week when his team plays Penn State, that he would be rooting for the Lions to succeed.
"It is a very unprecedented situation,” he said. “I made the decision as the head coach that we would not reach out to any Penn State players."
Michigan coach Brady Hoke said they did look at PSU roster for possible transfers but decided to "keep our business our business."
On Wednesday, O’Brien mentioned Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz as a coach who had contacted him about one or more potential transfers.
"It's complex and very confusing, quite frankly, what the rules,” Ferentz said. “First and foremost, everybody needs to be compliant. After that, it's just a matter of doing what you think is appropriate. That's what we try to do."
Ohio State’s Urban Meyer had a succinct response to the idea of other programs poaching PSU players: "I have a problem on that."
Meyer, when asked about dealing with sanctions, said, "We got hit by that 2 by 4 in December that we couldn't go to a bowl game (in 2012). Number one was a recruiting issue we had to deal with. We also found out who wants to be an Ohio State Buckeye, and Coach O'Brien will find that out. There won’t be any half-ins."
There are reports that running back Silas Redd, a 1,200-yard rusher last year for Penn State, met with USC Thursday and could consider a transfer there. O’Brien said he had no update on Redd’s status and also said no players had informed him they planned a transfer yet.
Penn State linebacker Mike Mauti led a group of players who pledged their allegiance to the program earlier this week.
“We gotta get out there and we gotta start fighting back." PSU's Mauti said. "If you're going to wish us well and then try to take our kids, then I got a problem with that."
Delany met with the Big Ten coaches on Thursday morning. He hopes the 11 other league schools tread lightly on this issue --- while still allowing the affected athletes to go where they want to go.
“We are trying to put an overlay on this that allows the athlete as much opportunity as the rules allow, that allows for collegial relationships between our schools to be done in the right way,” said Delany, who added the Big Ten presidents voted unanimously to allow intra-conference transfers with no penalties in this instance.
“And also for the athletes and the coaches to interface, if that's what they want to do. But I think it should be focused. And if there's an opportunity there for a school and a player, that's great. If not, they should move on. That's my view. And I didn't have any discussion with any of the coaches individually about that.”
Michigan, Wisconsin Favored In Races
Earlier this week, an independent media poll picked Wisconsin and Michigan to win the Big Ten division races with Michigan picked to win the Big Ten championship game.
The Big Ten released a 10-man team of players to watch. Here was the release on that team:
The Big Ten Conference announced today its second annual football Players to Watch list, with 10 players earning preseason recognition. The preseason Players to Watch list is selected by a media panel and consists of five student-athletes each from the Legends Division and Leaders Division.
Representing the Legends Division are Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and quarterback Denard Robinson, Michigan State cornerback Johnny Adams and defensive end William Gholston and Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead.
The Leaders Division honorees are Ohio State defensive lineman John Simon and quarterback Braxton Miller, Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short and Wisconsin running back Montee Ball and linebacker Chris Borland.
Asked what he thinks of Michigan being considered a favorite in Big Ten, Hoke said, "Not much."
Michigan State won the Legends Division title last year and has won four straight games over rival Michigan. Dantonio was asked what he thinks of Michigan being favored.
“Why do you guys bring that up?" Dantonio said with a sly smile. “For us, it only matters if they are favored in the locker room ... in our locker room they won't be favored."
Dantonio’s Spartans have won 11 games the last two years, but still have not been to a BCS bowl. That goal remains, he said.
"It's always been our conversation to get to the Rose Bowl,” Dantonio said. “That is our goal. You have to get to the championship game before the Rose Bowl. We were fortunate to do that last year. We'll let things play out one game at a time."
With Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for postseason play and a spot in the title game this year, Wisconsin is the prohibitive favorite in the Leaders Division. Purdue’s Hope was asked what he thought about his team having a better chance to win the division.
"It may be an easier road, but we still have to grasp the idea that you have to win,” Hope said.
Delany said he was largely pleased with the discussions and end result that college football will adopt a four-team playoff beginning in 2014.
“I think the next step is a good step,” he said. “And it's one that we initially were concerned about. We were concerned that it might end up outside the bowl system and might have a bad effect on the Rose Bowl. We were concerned that it might be placed in a situation where growth‑‑ we know there's going to be people that are upset when their team is ranked fifth or sixth and they're not in.
“So we are really concerned about the slippery slope. But I think the way that it was structured, the agreement that came about among the conferences really speaks to the interest that everybody had in doing what was right for college football. I think our student‑athletes will benefit, because there will be double the opportunity to play for the brass ring. I think our fans will benefit because I think that there's going to be real emphasis on winning championships as well as strength of schedule.
“So I think that will encourage us to have stronger non‑conference schedules. I think that's a good thing. And I also think at the end of the day the Rose Bowl benefited because the Rose Bowl needs to evolve.”
The final details have not been settled, but the Rose Bowl will host a national semifinal game – instead of its usual Big Ten/Pac-12 match-up – in somewhere from two to four years in the first 12 seasons of the new arrangement.
“It's obvious that there's a push towards a broadened postseason, but the Rose Bowl's been very important not only to college football but to this conference over many, many decades, and I think that the signing of the 12‑year agreement with ESPN is a great statement about how relevant the Rose Bowl is,” Delany said. “That time of the day it's a global event. So I've said many times one of probably the top 10 single day sports properties in the world.”
Delany said he was disappointed that the Big Ten/Pac-12 scheduling arrangement fell apart. He said the Big Ten seems committed to the eight-game conference season for now.
Nebraska Getting Comfortable
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said he and his program enjoyed their first season in the Big Ten and are looking forward to the challenge again this year.
"A year under our belt and having some familiarity with the styles and schemes will help us going into year two,” he said. “Seeing it on film is one thing, but living it is something different.
“I was very impressed with the depth of the league. There is a lot of very good talent in the league and a lot of talent running around on the field. You have to be ready each and every Sat or things aren't going to go your way."
One of the marquee games this season will send Nebraska to Ohio State for a prime time game on Oct. 6. Pelini, a Youngstown, Ohio, native, was a defensive back and captain for the Buckeyes in the late 1980s.
"I don't look forward to that game more than any other game,” he said. “I think our players will enjoy playing there. It's a great tradition and a great environment."
* Dantonio on standout DE William Gholston: "At 6-7, 285 pounds, he is a force. There is no doubt about that."
* Ferentz, starting his 14th year at Iowa, talked about being the dean of Big Ten coaches with Paterno gone.
"I never thought much about it and I still don't,” he said. “We take it one year at a time."
Next on the seniority list? Wisconsin’s Bielema and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, each starting their seventh year at their respective jobs.
* PSU’s O’Brien said there are discussions within team regarding the school’s uniforms – plain as can be since the beginning of time -- possibly changing.
"Some of the changes people will have to wait and see on Sept. 1,” he said.
* OSU’s Meyer said TE Jake Stoneburner and OT Jack Mewhort should be back with the team when practice starts next Friday. They each were suspended from team activities and lost their scholarship aid after being arrested for obstructing official business this spring.
"It was an expensive mistake,” Meyer said. “They are doing what they are supposed to do. As of right now they will report to camp next Friday."
* Purdue’s Hope has the luxury of three quality quarterbacks with returning starter Caleb TerBush to go with Robert Marve and Rob Henry, who each have dealt with injuries.
"We are very fortunate to be in the position we are, we have 3 very talented driven quarterbacks,” Hope said.
Hope said TerBush will be No. 1. But he said Marve came in and progressed as he was healthy. Henry missed last season, but Hope said he is a great athlete and tremendous leader.
"We have a plan to utilize all 3 of those guys in different facets of our offense,” he said.
* Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, who suffered a seizure on the sideline last season, was asked about his health.
“I feel fantastic, thanks for asking,” Kill said.
* Hoke was asked about RB Fitzgerald Toussaint’s availability for the opener against defending national champion Alabama after a DUI arrest. DE Frank Clark is also suspended after a home invasion charge.
"There is a standard of expectation,” Hoke said. “Right now, they are indefinitely suspended. They will pay the price for a bad decision and we will make a decision down the road."
Videos From Chicago
We produced no fewer than 10 videos from Big Ten media day. Check them out here:
MSU’s Dantonio at podium: link
Nebraska’s Bo Pelini: link
Penn State’s Bill O’Brien: link
OSU’s Meyer at podium: link
More Coverage From Chicago
Here are more links to coverage of the Big Ten media days from the 247 Sports Network (some of these may be premium links):
Traumatic injury to MSU’s Moore: link
Dantonio on PSU transfers: link
Nebraska notables at media day: link
NU’s Pelini focuses on details: link
OSU notables: players talk about staying put: link
Meyer makes first Big Ten media day appearance: link
Penn State goes on offensive: link
PSU’s Mauti doesn’t like transfer rules: link
Wisconsin thinking three-peat: link
Already have an account? Sign In