Welcome To The Urban Meyer, Big Ten

As expected, Ohio State’s new coach has shaken up college sports’ stodgiest conference.

As expected, his fellow coaches are having some adjustment issues.

See, they don’t do “recruiting” in the B1G – or, at least, not the kind Meyer likes. Since taking over in Columbus in December, Meyer waged SEC-style war in B1G country. When all was said and done, he had nabbed one player committed to Michigan State, one from Wisconsin and four from beleaguered Penn State.

The idea of poaching a competitor’s recruit is apparently as foreign to Bret Bielema and Mark Dantonio as a 4.5 40. At least, that seems to be at the heart of the bitching in the wake of Meyer blowing away his conference mates on National Signing Day.

Legend has it that somewhere along the way it was (un)written in the B1G coaching code that trying to lure away recruits from another school in the conference isn’t kosher. I guess no one mentioned that during Meyer’s orientation.

Personally, this puts me in the undesirable bind of ajudicating between poncy unwritten sports rules and Meyer.

Something about poaching does feel wrong. I suspect that has something to do with our stereotypes about recruiting – that prospects only switch allegiances if they got paid off. After all, you only “commit” to a school because you really are committed to it, right?

BielemaBielema did hint at some “illegal tactics” being used on recruits – without going into specifics. (B1G coaches just don’t go around airing their dirty laundry in public, he told Sporting News columnist Matt Hayes.) However, based on Bielema’s comments, the fact that Meyer even pursued one of his recruits is too SEC for college sports’ most prestigious league.

If I were a college football coach, a ban on poaching within my conference would probably make life easier. Sure, you’d lose out on some guys you might be able to flip. At the same time, though, you’d spend less time and energy guarding your flock with your closest competition effectively neutered.

So that’s nice for the coaches, but they get paid an awful lot of money to play the recruiting game. What about the players, whose lives are supposedly enriched by participating in college athletics?

The fact of the matter is that we’re talking about 17- and 18-year-old kids who are making what is likely to be the biggest decision of their lives up to that point. They’re doing it while being hounded by college coaches with high-pressure sales tactics and hangers-on asking where they’re going. They’re also being pushed to commit earlier than ever before.

If they decide they would be happier at another school than the one to which they have committed, recruits deserve the right to change their minds. If getting prospects to the right place for them means other coaches continuing to recruit them after a commitment, I’m all for it.

So get wise to the Urban lifestyle, B1G.