CHICAGO — If you were wondering how long it would be before a Penn State recruiting question surfaced at Big Ten Media Days, it took only about seven minutes to find out.
Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema took the podium first, and despite some early softballs, he was asked early on about his stance regarding recruiting Penn State players.
“I made the decision as a head coach that we would not reach out to any Penn State players,” Bielema said. Although Bielema brought up the timing aspect and the completion of his roster, he also acknowledged that the entire process has been difficult, and that he has too much respect for the school to do so.
He also discussed the topic of “Big Ten Brotherhood” when justifying why he wouldn’t be communicating with players from PSU. A very strong take on a very sensitive situation that has generated plenty of intriguing responses.
On the opposite end, Illinois coach Tim Beckman immediately broached the topic most were craving to ask about. It was reported yesterday that his coaching staff traveled to the Penn State campus on a recruiting trip on Wednesday, but he refuted some of these reports to a degree.
“We were in State College, but we did not go on campus,” Beckman said. “We called some individuals and if they wanted to come by, they had the opportunity to come by.”
Two different coaches, two vastly different approaches.
Although Bielema’s approach should be admired, the idea of “Big Ten Brotherhood” is certainly not something felt throughout the conference. The NCAA has made this frenzy very real, very legal and made limited restrictions when it comes to recruiting PSU players.
Although the thought of recruiting these athletes makes us all cringe, it’s also within the rules (as long as these coaches follow to the rules) to do so. Does it pass the smell test? Absolutely not. In the end, however, it’s a performance-based league and most of these coaches will do whatever it takes to improve their teams and keep their jobs.
“We’re just following the rules of the NCAA,” Beckman said on recruiting Penn State players, only moments before he stepped up the podium. This answer is far from “Big Ten Brotherhood,” but then again, it’s the uncomfortable scenario these coaches have been put in.
As they say, "Win at all costs,” and that motto will be tested in the coming days and weeks.