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.”
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 ESPN.com 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.