Urban Meyer was brash. He stormed into Big Ten recruiting with SEC tenacity. He stole top recruits from Michigan State and Wisconsin and ransacked a reeling, post-Paterno Happy Valley. Expect the tension at the next round of Big Ten meetings to be viscous. Bret Bielema’s recent comments represent the prevailing sentiment. This is a conference where flipping a four-star wide receiver brands one a snake oil salesman.
The Wisconsin coach ripped Meyer explicitly for unsavory practices that violate the “gentleman’s agreement” in Big Ten recruiting.
“There’s a few things that happened early on 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,” Bielema said. “Other recruiting tactics, other recruiting practices that are illegal. I was very up front and was very poignant to the fact. I actually reached out to Coach Meyer and shared my thoughts and concerns with him and the situation got rectified.”
He distinguished between the virtuous Big Ten and that conference below the Mason-Dixon.
“I can tell you this,” says Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema. “We at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC—in any way, shape or form.”
Bielema’s sanctimonious comments were laughable. The Big Ten’s record on a level playing field is certainly unlike the SEC in any way, shape or form. College football fans chortle at the thought of Bret “Beat Em Down at Home” Bielema accusing someone else of behaving without class. It’s a craven move to accuse Meyer of “illegal” activity and not back it up publicly with explicit substance. It’s rich to claim “we settle things among ourselves as coaches,” while settling things in the media.
Beyond being silly, Bielema’s comments highlight a bizarre and telling cultural discordance. The Great Lakes, grounded in capitalism and the Yankee diaspora, has developed a stale, genteel brand of football where success comes through birthright and a priggish ethical code governs behavior. The Deep South, grounded in aristocracy and tradition, has created a vigorous, vibrant and merit-based brand of football, where success stems from winning. The latter has won six-straight BCS titles. The former looks increasingly irrelevant with each coming season.
Big Ten coaches will want Meyer to take it down a notch, but he may prove the long-awaited adrenaline shot the conference needs. Fortunately (or unfortunately f0r Bielema and Dantonio), he has no plans to change tack. Here’s what he purportedly told a conference of Ohio high school coaches:
“You’re pissed because we went after a committed guy? Guess what, we got nine guys who better go do it again. Do it a little harder next time.”
[Photo via Getty]