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Ridiculous Silliness July 30, 2012

I was driving through Nowheresville Missouri on Saturday and I had the radio on scan. Between country stations and Branson advertisements, the scan settled on a sports talk host saying the words “Tim Beckman”, so I stopped my scan and listened. He was outraged. “EIGHT coaches in Happy Valley, wandering the campus stalking players? EIGHT? Shame on you, Tim Beckman.”

Such silliness.

This story just keeps spiraling, and Nowheresville Radio Guy was just the next to jump on board. Find the talking point, include a “shame on you”, and move on to the next story. Who cares if what you just said wasn’t true?

Best I can tell, this story spiraled this way: Stories hit from Arizona media that we were recruiting Ryan Nowicki, Arizona native and Penn State freshman. One of those stories claimed that Illinois was sending coaches to Happy Valley the next day to meet with Nowicki, as well as a few coaches sent to Arizona to meet with Nowicki’s parents.

Our coaches arrived at Penn State the next day, and suddenly the story spun out of control. I can probably best describe it backwards, using this disappointing blog post from one of my favorite blogs, Off Tackle Empire. Here’s what OTE wrote:

On Wednesday a few Penn State players Tweeted that they being contacted/stalked/harassed by a group of unnamed coaches who were lurking around their apartment building. Then, head coach Bill O’Brien actually ran into a few coaches outside of the Lasch Football Building. Turns out, these six to eight coaches (I’ve heard conflicting numbers) were from the University of Illinois. They weren’t doing anything wrong or illegal as the NCAA essentially declared an “open season” on Penn State’s players. However, it seems like professional courtesy if you call the compliance department or ask BOB how he’d like you to approach the situation. Illinois didn’t do that. They just sent their coaches in like they were Nicaraguan Contras.

Naturally, Tim Beckman was asked about the incident yesterday and gave the following responses (via BHGP):

“We were in State College, but we weren’t on campus.”

“We called a few individuals, but we weren’t recruiting them.”

“We did not go after them, but they had the opportunity to come to us.”

Um. What? What do you mean you were in State College but weren’t on campus? Bill O’Brien literally saw your coaches outside the Lasch Football Building. Is that not on Penn State’s campus?

Did he? Of course not. OTE was simply playing a sloppy game of telephone. The link they included as proof that Bill O’Brien saw our coaches outside the infamous Lasch Building was this USA Today article, which said this:

Illinois coaches ran into Bill O’Brien as the Penn State coach on his way to visit ESPN, according to a story on the network’s website. Other schools reportedly also were in the parking lot of the Lasch Building.

OK, fine, maybe it’s easy to combine “Illinois coaches ran into Bill O’Brien as the Penn State coach was on his way to visit ESPN” and “other schools reportedly also were in the parking lot of the Lasch Building” (memo to USA Today: when saying “reportedly”, please reference said report. Otherwise, you might be, oh, I don’t, running with rumors or something, desperate to find the next SMU parking lot story).

Let’s keep climbing back. Tim Beckman said in the press conference that he was never on campus. Bill O’Brien saw him in State College. Let’s go back to that ESPN story that USAToday was referencing to find out where that took place.

As they boarded a plane Wednesday morning to go to Bristol, O’Brien and his colleagues walked past a group of six coaches carrying University of Illinois bags and suitcases. A Penn State official told that no words were exchanged between O’Brien and the Illinois contingent.

Wait, “as they boarded a plane”? Would that mean that this Sharks/Jets fingersnap session maybe happened at the airport, meaning Beckman’s claim that his coaches were not on campus hounding players was true? Well, yes.

Six assistant coaches of the Fighting Illini were in State College to talk to players and actually had crossed paths Wednesday with Lions coach Bill O’Brien at the airport.

So why was this radio host in Nowheresville, Missouri all up in arms? Why did Dick Vitale angrily tweet “The way ILLINI went after PSU players- did not break any rules- but TOTALLY CLASSLESS- on campus =VULTURES- same conf =WOW NO RESPECT”? Why did the usually reliable Matt Hayes with The Sporting News tweet “#ESPN says Illinois sent six coaches to #PennState. In the parking lot. I don’t think Zooker would do that.”?

Because everyone wants the SMU story. Everyone wants another parking lot. Everyone wants this story from 1987 again (hat tip to Dan at Illinois Loyalty):

About 130 football coaches from some 80 colleges have descended on the campus of Southern Methodist University over the past two days, attempting to lure away the best of the college’s football team.

The possible decimation of the team has raised the possibility that S.M.U., which was barred this week from fielding a team in 1987, will cancel its abbreviated 1988 schedule as well.

Representatives from all over the country milled about outside the football offices at Ownby Stadium waiting to snare a few minutes of the players’ time.

Among the larger schools that were reportedly represented on campus were Penn State, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma, Houston, U.C.L.A., Arizona, Tulsa, Alabama and Kansas.

Most coaches apparently left their homes Wednesday soon after learning that the National Collegiate Athletic Association had suspended the football program next season and limited the 1988 campaign to seven games, all on the road, because of repeated rules violations. Almost 100 coaches were on campus by Thursday morning. More than 30 arrived today.

Wait wait wait wait WAIT. Did that say PENN STATE coaches were in the infamous SMU parking lot?? JoePa? I mean, you think you know someone…

OK, so what really happened with our coaches in Happy Valley on Wednesday? If only there was some way to find out. I mean, if only they had been up front about the whole thing, telling the media exactly how it went down, even including details about contacting the Penn State Athletic Director about Nowicki and (possibly) other players we would like to talk to.

WAIT. I totally JUST REMEMBERED that we DID do exactly that. In fact, in being up front about it, Tim Beckman actually said he was trying to be up front about it.

“Not at all,” Beckman said at the Big Ten media when asked if he felt he had to defend or apologize for recruiting Penn State players. “We’re just following the rules of the NCAA. We provided Penn State with the names of the people that prior to us even going there. Our compliance coordinator, Ryan Squire, and Mike Thomas, our athletic director, gave him a list of people that — so that they were aware of before we got there of who those individuals might be.

“We’re just following rules. We’re compliant in everything that the Big Ten and NCAA has asked us to do. It wasn’t a sneak attack because it was all up front prior to us even being there.”

Beckman also said Illinois had been contacted by Penn State players who expressed an interest in transferring to Illinois prior to the Illini’s coaches arrival to State College.

Beckman would not say how many Penn State players met with his coaches in State College or whether any had said they planned on transferring to Illinois.

“We gave them an opportunity to come to us,” Beckman said. “We did not go after them. We told them where we at. If they would like to come and talk to our coaching staff, we were willing to talk to them off campus.

“There were certain individuals that reached out to us also. It wasn’t where we were just going in blind, calling players up and doing that sort of thing.”

And of that contact we had with Penn State’s interim Athletic Director? Here’s what our AD Mike Thomas had to say about that on Saturday Sportsline (another hat tip to Dan):

How the whole process started, as you know, the NCAA and Big Ten basically laid down the rules as to the opportunity for their student athletes at Penn State to go other places if they choose, and actually not even have to sit out a year. Which in both cases is unusual.

That being said, as it relates to the Big Ten conference, the protocol really was- if you were going to pursue any of their kids that the communication be from the athletic director of the school that had the interest to David Joyner the Penn State AD. That in fact happened. David acknowledged that.

As best as I can understand, from my coaches, it’s a matter of kids or their families reaching out to them. And so we did have the coaches go in that direction. Never went on campus. They had some conversations, I can’t tell you how many.

But at the end of the day it was really about kids who had an interest in the University of Illinois. It wasn’t there to be an aggressive sales pitch, that wasn’t it at all.

If the kids are interested, we’ll listen and we’ll have that dialogue. If they’re not interested — even if they expressed interest early on — then we would back off. And that’s what happened.

Matter of fact, the day after, I spoke to [PSU AD] David Joyner first thing in the morning and he was fine with everything. He felt that we had handled the whole situation appropriately.

So we never went on campus, we pursued kids like Nowicki who had contacted us (he was born in and has family in Illinois, by the way), we possibly talked to a few others (at least I’m hoping we did), we did it all under the rules and guidelines laid out by the NCAA, and even the Penn State AD felt that we handled the situation appropriately. Could Tim Beckman be lying about the way we handled it? I guess. But there isn’t one report out there claiming our coaches were seen on campus. Nothing credible saying that our coaches were circling around the school like vultures. Nowicki contacted us, we put on the full court press, and we possibly talked to a few other players while we were there.

Besides, given that Rob Bolden is off to LSU and Silas Redd might head to USC, plus Washington and Arizona State both hosting Ryan Nowicki on visits, we weren’t the only team talking to Penn State players. You read a story like this, where Khairi Fortt’s father states that “TCU, UConn, Kansas, Washington, Auburn, Baylor, FSU, Vanderbilt and several others told him he has a scholarship at their program”, and you realize that there are dozens of college football programs chasing Penn State players. As it should be.

So why did my Nowheresville, Missouri radio friend want to shame Tim Beckman? Why is Dick Vitale up in arms? Because nobody really looked for the truth in this story. They all looked for the parking lot.

U-God July 30th, 2012

Your first mistake was allowing yourself to be disappointed by anything written on OTE.

illiniranger July 30th, 2012

Bravo Robert.

OTE’s coverage is very anti-Illini. They don’t respect our program at all – same goes with IU and PU. The only teams that get credible coverage there are ones that have a writer… NU and Minny get way better coverage then we do because they have alumni writers. OTE is funny, but not a good place for Illini fans to go since they get off on disrespecting us.

ajsrest July 30th, 2012

From Tupper’s Blog:

**Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said he found the matter unsettling. He was initially against Big Ten members accepting the transfers but was outvoted by university presidents. “My advice was that this is not a healthy place for us to be,” Delany said. “But their response was unanimous. They said this is not about competition between schools. It’s about these student-athletes having a full spectrum of options.”**

Obviously the university presidents unanimoously had their priorities right. Respect the players not the (flawed) program.

Joe John July 30th, 2012

Robert, just admit that Beckman had one of the silliest gaffes of all time when it comes to public relations. It was Bruce Weber-ian.

The ultimate kicker will be when he doesnt land any players as well…although losing out on an OT that cant even make the 3 deep at Penn State cant be considered much of a loss. Yet, why make such a brash impression if you are going after nobodies?

Joe John July 30th, 2012

And again Robert…name another school (besides Illinois) that sent their entire coaching staff to State College. I dont think any did. Simply makes Illinois look bad..maybe Beckman is so small time that he doesnt know the proper way of going thru back channels to get these things done. You gotta believe…if Lane Kiffin’s entire coaching staff was in State College…or Les Miles…there’d be stories about it…but no, Illinois is the only school dumb enough (or brash enough) to make that big of impression.

If guys want to come visit your school…no one cares…it was the sending all the coaches to State College that was just plain idiotic,,,and whatever symmatics you want to use to justify Beckman (whether he was on campus or not) is par for the course for your all things positive no matter what orange kool aid football act.

I guess before the season starts is the only part of the year to be positive though…cant really do that once the season does start and the losses mount.

ILLINI08 July 30th, 2012

joe john is a negative Nancy.

ajsrest July 30th, 2012

joe john is a tool of the highest magnitude. not a fan.

Joe John July 30th, 2012

To the two above me…just telling it like it is without any orange tint.

JimM July 30th, 2012

@Joe John: Well, let me tell you like it is then. If you were looking at other schools with a short window to make a decision because camp opens soon, wouldn’t you want to meet with the person who might to be your position coach? Wouldn’t you want to meet with the offensive or defensive coordinator too? Especially since the school had a staff change? So, let’s say 4 different players were interested, an offensive lineman, a wide receiver, a linebacker and a defensive back. So, then, 6 coaches are what they would need to meet. Obviously, you have no idea about recruiting or you’d understand that.

ILLINI08 July 30th, 2012

joe john … take it elsewhere

ILLINI08 July 30th, 2012

the only thing Joe John understands is that making inflammatory comments gets him attention. and as long as he is allowed to stay around he will keep up his outbursts. time for the BAN HAMMER.

Joe John July 30th, 2012

Whatever..i’m right. No other team sent 8 coaches there. Beckman did. It created a scene of negative attention that could have and should have been completely avoided.

GrogsBBQPepperoni July 30th, 2012

Again, the “up in arms” reaction of our “behavior” has the by-product of an implied sympathy for Penn State and that is just so stupid. Their organization harbored a pedophile, plain and simple. Any story or discussion that involves Penn State football should not be involve a single person who can honestly look down his or her nose at any other school. Period. Penn State gets whatever comes to them; sanctions, probation, lost players, etc. That’s what happens when you “break bad”.

Duce20 July 30th, 2012

Nope, no other coaching staff did send that many, however if I was a fan of PU NW IU or Minny I would be irate that my team didn’t take the steps necessary to make the team better. Illinois did. This isn’t small, this is saying I am going to do whatever I have to to make my team better because I get paid to win games. Of course Lane Kiffin wasn’t in State College, he doesn’t have to, SC sells itself. Last I checked we aren’t SC so you have to be different.

I praise Beckman for not doing it thE way everyone else says you should, if we all did it the way the powers that be think we should there would have been no 83 Illini, no Va Tech no KSU. Screw the powers that be, GO ILLINI!

JimM July 30th, 2012

Joe John: “Whatever..i’m right. No other team sent 8 coaches there.”

Whatever, you’re wrong. The Illini only sent 6 coaches, not 8. And how exactly do you KNOW that no other team sent 6 or 8 coaches? You sitting at the airport watching all the incoming flights? You got every hotel and motel in the area covered? You making sure carloads of players aren’t meeting staffs at secret locations? Seems to me that you may not know even half what you think you know. Seems to me you’re doing the exact same thing you complain the NCAA did to you.

Hoppy July 30th, 2012

Agree with JimM.
Plus, how do we know they didn’t send a compliance official or two? Not a coach. I mean, wouldn’t you…it’s a touchy situation so let’s make sure we have someone there to keep us in the rules no matter what.
AND, let’s not forget we met at two different locations. A starbucks and a restaurant. That was probably for the convenience of any players who happened to live on different sides of campus. So you take our 6-8 coaches and divide them up and what you have is 3-4 coaches at each place. Maybe 1-2 position representatives, a guy on a laptop for stats, articles, and recording info (maybe with a tape recorder) and a compliance guy.
For 1-2 guys at each place, that doesn’t sound so extreme to me.

mattcoldagelli July 31st, 2012

Can’t have it both ways, JoeJohn. Either our program is in the dire straits that you constantly say it is, in which case this is a totally acceptable risk-reward move to make regardless of whether we get anybody…or you’re wrong about the program in general and we’re well off enough that we can afford to sit on our hands and make overtures from afar.

Erik July 31st, 2012

Hey JoeJohn–Colin Cowherd reported today that USC send 6 coaches to PSU to recruit Silas Redd.

Lou-a-villini July 31st, 2012

Joe John referring to people as “nobodies” is beginning to take on a certain pot/kettle/black quality.

GrogsBBQPepperoni August 1st, 2012

I’m just curious, Joe John has made it painfully clear that he does not like the Beckman hire. Does that mean we have to listen to him cry about it for his entire tenure? I didn’t like Zook but at least I could get behind the team regardless.

illiniranger August 2nd, 2012

nowicki officially to illinois. worth all the bad publicity. might get a WR too.