Friday, February 3, 2012

MEYER, SMITH DEFEND RECRUITING PRACTICES, SAY NOTHING ILLEGAL

Urban Meyer
COLUMBUS — New Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer has been known for the past decade as perhaps the best recruiter in the country. The two-time national championship winning coach seems to speak a language that young star athletes understand.

However, Meyer's relentless approach to bagging prepsters has drawn the ire from some coaches in the Big Ten, most notably Bret Bielema of the Big Ten champion Wisconsin Badgers.

"There's a few things that happened early on I made people aware of that I didn't want to see in this league that I had seen take place at other leagues. Other recruiting tactics, other recruiting practices that are illegal ... " Bielema said.

"I actually reached out to Coach Meyer and shared my thoughts and concerns with him."

Bielema is referring to Meyer speaking with recruits after they had already committed to other schools. Something which isn't illegal — as Bielema claims — but may frowned upon by coaches, particularly in the Big Ten.

"I would say it's pretty unethical," Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said of Meyer's practices. "You ask people for a commitment, you ask for people's trust, ask for people to make a commitment to you, but then you turn around and say it's okay to go back after somebody else's commitment.

"That's a double standard."

Bielema and Dantonio seem to be the most outspoken about Meyer because he was able to get former commits, defensive end Se'Von Pittman (Michigan State), and offensive tackle Kyle Dodson (Wisconsin) to switch to Ohio State.

OSU athletics director Gene Smith released a statement on Friday showing his displeasure with the treatment Meyer is receiving from coaches in the Big Ten.

"I am disappointed that negative references have been made about our football coaches, and particularly head coach Urban Meyer regarding recruiting," Smith said. "In our league appropriate protocol, if you have concerns, is to share those concerns with your Athletic Director. Then your AD will make the determination on the appropriate communication from that point forward.

"The ADs in our league are professionals and communicate with each other extremely well. Urban Meyer and his staff have had a compliance conscience since they have arrived."

Meyer defended himself Friday in a statement of his own.

"I was pleased to take part in a productive, regularly scheduled meeting of the Big Ten Conference coaches today in Chicago," Meyer said. "We had an opportunity to discuss a number of issues with each other and conference staff, including those that have arisen this week (about recruiting).

"It should be noted that my coaching staff is in full compliance with our recruiting efforts, and no one on this staff did anything illegal or unethical. We will continue to comply with NCAA rules and recruit with relentless effort, especially the great state of Ohio."

Former Wisconsin head coach and current AD Barry Alvarez, in an interview with ESPN, defended Meyer and his approach to recruiting.

"Recruiting is recruiting until they sign," Alvarez said. "If we had somebody who changed their mind and came to us, that's OK. Urban was very aggressive but there is no pact within our conference not to continue to recruit. Open season until they sign."

Ohio State was rated as the No. 1 team in the Big Ten for recruiting in the class of 2012 by every major scouting service in the country.

— You can follow Lee Hudnell on Twitter @LeeHudnell_TBT