Blog Entry

It's Urban's world, Big Ten -- deal with it

Posted on: February 3, 2012 2:27 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 9:20 pm

The irony is that Urban Meyer and Lane Kiffin have almost become buds.

“As bizarre as this is because our relationship has been so public, I actually get along with him, probably, now,” Meyer told me this week. “We actually have conversations now. He’s fine. We’re fine. He apologized. I said, ‘I acted like a child too.’ ”

It was three years ago, that Kiffin started a year-long tweaking of the SEC establishment by accusing Meyer, then at Florida, of breaking NCAA rules.

“I love the fact that Urban had to cheat and still didn’t get him,” Kiffin said of the now infamous and inaccurate accusation regarding receiver Nu’Keese Richardson.

Left in Kiffin’s wake were a half-dozen secondary violations remaining from his zeal to remake the Vols. As we know, his one-act play at Tennessee is long over. Kiffin has rehabbed both USC and his image the last two seasons.

“He reached out,” Ohio State's new coach said of Kiffin. “I reached back. Me and his dad [Monte] have been friends for a long time. I was as [much to blame] as anybody. I was very childish and egotistical. Then he reached out and said, ‘You know what? We didn’t start out on the right foot.’ “

This all comes in the context of a lot of childishness, Big Ten style. In the past 48 hours, Meyer has morphed from rock star free-agent savior come down from the heavens to rescue Ohio State football, to a recruiting bottom feeder. In the unholy marriage of Twitter, internet and incessant electronic talkfests, there were strong words thrown around to describe Meyer’s recruiting methods.

“Illegal,” said Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema.

“Unethical,” said Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio.

Really quickly, Meyer has become the Lane Kiffin of the Big Ten. Meyer’s boss, Gene Smith, felt compelled to issue a statement Friday. Without actually saying it, the coaches seemed to intimate that Meyer was “flipping” recruits, getting them to come to Ohio State after they’d committed to other schools. The description used Wednesday on National Signing Day was that Meyer had signed eight players who had previously committed to other schools.

So what? Flipped, turned. Whatever. The man had a few short days to fix Ohio State in recruiting, with a bowl ban thrown in to work around. The problem is as the story develops, it lacks nuance, subtly and context. You have to read the full quotes from Bielema and Dantonio (below).

I was in Meyer’s office Thursday and told him about Bielema’s Wednesday statements.

“He [Bielema] called and said that [pausing] It really wasn’t our staff, it was the previous [staff],” Meyer said, “something about where a pro player called a kid or something like that. A former Buckeye called a kid. That’s all I remember. I checked into it, there’s no truth to anything.”

Unethical? Name me a coach who hasn’t signed a recruit who had been favoring another school. It’s how the industry works. It’s cutthroat. It’s brutal.

“I tell our guys,” Meyer said, “you really have no value to a program if you can’t recruit.”

All this reminds me of the great Ricky Bobby who once said, “If you’re not first, you’re last.”

Good call. There are no second places in a recruiting. You either get the guy or you don’t. As long as no NCAA or civil laws are broken, it’s every recruiter for himself. By some estimates, Meyer landed four kids who had committed to Penn State. It would have been a recruiting sin, if he didn’t pick over the remains of Penn State football. In fact, who didn't go after Penn State recruits? Maybe the best question for Meyer is, “Four? Why didn’t you get six?”

Speaking at high school coaches’ clinic Friday morning, Meyer had enough. He was quoted as saying (rhetorically): “You’re pissed because we went after a committed guy? Guess what, we got nine guys [recruiters] who better go do it again. Do it a little harder next time.”

How does that taste, Big Ten? Bielema told the Sporting News that Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez would speak to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany Friday about Meyer’s recruiting methods. There’s one problem with that. Let’s say that Meyer pissed off a bunch of Big Ten coaches by taking their commits. Again, so what? “Commit” should be stricken from recruiting glossary along with “slight lean” and “strong verbal.” They are contrived terms meant to shame a player into what has become some sort of promise/marriage/sacred bond.

But let’s say that somehow Delany pushes through an official Big Ten stance that no coach can intrude on a “committed” recruit. The one big problem: Even if all 12 Big Ten schools agree, there are 108 other FBS programs who won’t.

In fact, recruiters will be laughing all the way to their private planes during recruiting season. How do you think SEC coaches are going to react if the Big Ten coaches all agree to this little “gentlemen’s agreement?”

Probably by winning a seven consecutive national championship, for starters.  

“Gentlemen’s agreement?,” one incredulous former major-college assistant told me Friday. “[Recruiting] is a Clint Eastwood movie. ‘Hang ‘Em High, ‘The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.’ Are you kidding me? Gentleman’s agreement?”

Context was an issue here. I had a Michigan State official call me to explain Dantonio’s quotes. Read the entire Bielema statement from signing day. Kind of takes some of the starch out of a flaming controversy that continues to have kindling thrown on it. Michigan State defensive coordinator "starts a recruiting rivalry."

You would hope. In fact, there should be a recruiting rivalry should exist with every Big Ten team. The Spartans haven't been to a Rose Bowl in almost 25 years.

Anyway, here's the full quotes ... 

Mark Dantonio
speaking in general on Wednesday:

"I would say it's pretty unethical. 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 OK to go back after somebody else's commitment. That's a double standard.

"Everybody's got a job to do, there's a lot of pressure, but we're all grown men and we're trying to do a job, just like society today in every respect, whether it's a reporter or doctor or lawyer or somebody else. People are gonna try and do their job, they're gonna do what they have to do to get it done sometimes."

Specifically on Urban Meyer:

“They've got a new coach, there's differences when a new coach comes in. It's a new testing of the waters, but it's a two-way street, it's always a two-way street. There's always gotta be the other person listening, too. I think when it becomes a matter of twisting somebody, when you're a 50-year-old man or 40-year-old man twisting a 17-year-old, that's when it's wrong.

"I'm not saying that's happening in the Big Ten Conference, but I see that happening around the country. That happens when somebody decommits on the day of signing day and you've got to wonder about that."
Dantonio then released this statement on Friday: "Let me be clear: Some general recruiting statements I made were completely taken out of context when combined together by a reporter not in attendance. The timing of my comments was a reflection of an occurring matter on Signing Day and nothing to do with Urban Meyer at Ohio State. My comments regarding 'unethical' behavior were general in nature, according to my current coaching philosophy, and not directed toward any particular institution." 

Question to Bret Bielema on Wednesday: Is Urban Meyer’s hiring changed recruiting in the Upper Midwest and in the Big Ten?

Bielema:  "Well, I don’t think it, I hope it doesn’t change. I think the potential to change has been there. And, there’s a few things that happened early on that I made people be 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. And I was very up front and was very pointed to the fact. I actually reached out to Coach Meyer and shared my thoughts and concerns with him, and the situation got rectified.

“But the one thing I love about this league, it was kind of funny, when I was a younger coach, I was offered a job in another league, right? And this coach, I was working for $175,000 for Coach Alvarez, and he asked me what I was making, and I said I was making $175,000. He goes, ‘how many year contract?’ I said, ‘zero, just a one-year contract.’ He goes, ‘I’ll offer you $350,000 in a four-year contract.’ And I’m like, ‘ah, I don’t think so. You know, it’s not, money is not important to me at this point. I kind of want to stay where I’m at in the Big Ten. It’s got great values. I’m at a great place, a great institution.’

He goes, ‘okay, I’ll make it $450,000, and I’ll give you a five-year guarantee.’ I said, ‘okay, now I’ve got to talk to you.’ But it did make a point of interest to me. I didn’t tell you that I was just joking. But it was a real offer that was out there. And he said to me, ‘you know what the difference between the Big Ten and this conference is?’

And I said, ‘no.’ He said, ‘in the Big Ten, everybody tells on everybody. In our conference, nobody tells on anybody.’ And that made a huge comment to me. And I’ve been very cognizant of that, encourage our coaches to play by the books, to do things in a certain way. If you have to lie, cheat, or steal to get someone here, it doesn’t make a great point once you get them here about how you’ve got to handle them.

“So I think that’s the point that I’ll take moving forward. Our league is based on certain values that we’re going to hold to be true. And, you know, if you don’t hold to those things to be true in our conference, well, you’ll be held accountable.”

There’s a couple of ways of fixing this “situation.” It sounds like Delany is going to have to have a come-to-Jesus meeting with his coaches to stop the backbiting. It happened with the SEC’s Mike Slive a couple of years ago when Kiffin was in full throat.

The other is to establish an early signing day, say the first week of December. High school players can be left alone to concentrate on state playoffs and their studies. Families don’t have to waste money on last-minute unofficial visits. Best of all, it relieves the pressure Signing Day, a date that has evolved into becoming an end to the process. 

It’s actually the beginning of a two-month signing period, but they don’t want you to know that. That’s an issue for another day. For now, it’s Urban’s world and the Big Ten is only living in it. 


Since: Jun 21, 2009
Posted on: February 3, 2012 4:50 pm

It's Urban's world, Big Ten -- deal with it

"Poaching is stealing. Period.
Promises are contracts.  Period.
Verbally committed means committed. It is a promise and a contract. Certainly it is not enforceable. Certainly NCAA rules do not address it."

MSUSpartan, you are out of your mind... what little of it exists, anyway. When I was 3 years old I promised my mom that I'd grow up to be a fireman. I promised my ex fiancee that I would marry her- shortly before I found out just how crazy she was. Sometimes you actually manage to learn things as you grow up and as a result you decisions and your priorities change.

The point is, promises ARE NOT contracts. Being engaged isn't the same thing as being married. That's the whole point of going through an engagement- to see what it would be like to be married while still having time to eject from the relationship without any legal or moral consequences. A verbal committment is an engagement. Enrolling in school is getting married. And, as another poster mentioned, this is a two way street. Most football scholarships are one year agreements- if the player doesn't live up to their end of the bargain they can find their golden ticket turn to ashes quickly. It's worth noting that all of the recruits that Meyer "stole" signed 4 year letters of intent. Maybe it wasn't just Urban's smooth voice and past history that they were "seduced" by- instead, maybe the security of a four year full ride made the difference.

BTW, I heard Michigan had three of the ten worst cities in America according to an article on Yahoo. That might've made a difference too.

Since: Nov 8, 2011
Posted on: February 3, 2012 4:49 pm

It's Urban's world, Big Ten -- deal with it

Bull squat - The Big 10 has had a few down years. I am looking forward to when these cycles change and we are back on top again. Most certainly I am going to remind all of you southern rednecks about how you thought of us a joke conference. Those of you that can read that is. Dukes of Hazzard are on CMT you probably won't get this for another half hour.

Since: Feb 3, 2012
Posted on: February 3, 2012 4:49 pm

It's Urban's world, Big Ten -- deal with it

Cmon on guys you know Urban is a bum! He left Florida hi and dry because of lack of in coming talent and one his first NC on somebody elses talent! Spread doesnt work in Big Ten ask Rich Rod!

Since: Jan 20, 2012
Posted on: February 3, 2012 4:44 pm

It's Urban's world, Big Ten -- deal with it

HOGWASH. While I may agree that Meyer has not reached "great" status just yet, saying you can't be great because you haven't coached pro is baloney. Bear Bryant is the greatest coach ever. Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy weren't bad either. Maybe Don Shula couldn't have won in college. Your statement is, well, quite S T U P I D. I would say Saban is great, having won titles at different schools and absolutely dominating everyone right now. In fact, you can say college coaches are more well-rounded because they can't concentrate on just the game, rather with recruiting and everything else. Again, STUPID comment.

Since: Aug 18, 2008
Posted on: February 3, 2012 4:42 pm

It's Urban's world, Big Ten -- deal with it

If you took a job and then three months later someone offered you a job that you wanted more and you accepted it, would you say that you were "stolen?" Or would you say that you on your own accord made that you made the best decision for yourself?

And if you think that "A deal is a deal whether is is verbal or written. A man's word should be enough. A man's handshake should be as good as his word"exists in the world of college football recruiting, then this must be your first time following it.

And finally, as others have noted, Dantonio wrecked any chance of claiming moral high ground when shortly after Pittman switched to Ohio State, five MSU coaches travelled to Ohio to try to switch Tyvis Powell.

Since: Apr 19, 2008
Posted on: February 3, 2012 4:37 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Feb 2, 2012
Posted on: February 3, 2012 4:37 pm

It's Urban's world, Big Ten -- deal with it

Urban Meyer Is a Great COLLEGE football  coach , not a GREAT Football Coach (that would be Beloechik , Coughlin , Walsh etc. coaches that have coached and suceeded at the highest level ) Urban is not different than Saban, Spurier , Holtz (Great college coachs who couldn;t coach men) ............That being said He and Les Miles are HORRIBLE Human Beings !!

Since: Nov 22, 2006
Posted on: February 3, 2012 4:30 pm

It's Urban's world, Big Ten -- deal with it

Urban will dominate recruiting... especially in the Big 10.  He'll probably even make it to a couple of national title games because he's in a joke conference.  If he does, whatever SEC team he faces will make his heart hurt.

Since: Nov 14, 2006
Posted on: February 3, 2012 4:22 pm

It's Urban's world, Big Ten -- deal with it

Like the Big 10 follows the rules.  LOL, not the case.  Just the SEC is a little better at the game.

Since: Mar 19, 2008
Posted on: February 3, 2012 4:17 pm

It's Urban's world, Big Ten -- deal with it

Hey coaches!!!  Don't blame Meyer for being unethical, blame the kids.  The kids are the ones who "committed" to your schools, not Meyers and the kids are the ones who changed their minds.  Besides, if unethical kids are the ones whom you're recruiting, what does it say about your program???

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