Sports

Urban Meyer Puts Big Ten At A Crossroads

By Ken Carman, Weeknights, 7pm-Midnight @KenCarman
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Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer / (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer / (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

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Call it a taste of the SEC.

For well over a decade now, Big Ten and especially Ohio State fans have had it drilled into their heads that the SEC is flat out, better.

There is a good reason of course. It is.

I can’t, and won’t deny the SEC’s domination of college football over the past decade. I also can’t and won’t deny the rest of college football’s biggest problem: Stop blaming the SEC for your problems. Figure out a way to rise to their level.

I could write a book about the shady dealings of the SEC. The over-signing, the booster effect, the package deals, and the coaches promising the same thing as agents (a shot at the NFL) but calling them (the agents) pimps.

Those very valid arguments are for other days. But until the NCAA starts actually doing what it’s meant to do, we might as well deliberate what’s right and wrong in college football recruiting with a wall. It does just as much good.

This season Urban Meyer came to Ohio State and brought some friends. It’s good thing because he hasn’t made many since.

Over this off-season, Meyer had been chastised by other Big Ten coaches for breaking “unwritten rules” by talking to players who had already committed to other Big Ten schools. He was called out for not recognizing the “gentleman’s agreement.”

Want to know why the Big Ten has fallen short of the SEC? The last paragraph is a good start.

Meyer learned to be a great head coach at Bowling Green and Utah. He learned to be cut-throat at Florida.

While the “Solid South” of the SEC shows up for each other when they’re in bowl games against teams from other conference, the concepts of recruiting within the conference boundaries would are the direct difference between wins and loses in the SEC. Their coaches and fans would consider a “gentleman’s agreement” laughable.

As a coach, try telling Nick Saban, Les Miles or Mark Richt to stay away from your commit. They’ll gladly pack your bags after they try to rob you of your best recruits.

It may seem wrong, even vile, but it is how SEC coaches but trophies in the case, and zeroes on their salaries, and it’s exactly how Urban Meyer will do it with the Buckeyes.

And I have no problem with it.

With Meyer at Ohio State, it raises the stakes of the Big Ten. The conference may not achieve the same cache` as the SEC, but can close the gap with the SEC’s own sink-or-swim mentality.

Without handshakes, the SEC’s system of “get the best players or we’ll find someone who will” has catapulted them to the premier college football conference. Meyer WILL help the Big Ten close the gap, whether the other coaches like it or not.

If Meyer keeps poaching players, Big Ten coaches will find themselves in the same spot as all SEC coaches: use their history, facilities, alumni and ever expanding uniform schemes to draw in the absolute best 17-year olds in the country? Or watch one team in my conference snag them all and wait for my pink slip?

As unbiased as possible, Ohio State already has an advantage over most Big Ten schools. It has had major BCS success over the last decade, a high amount of players in the NFL (save for last season) and it’s located in a very large city with a lot for young people to do.

Michigan has nearly all of that (except the bustling major city scene). Wisconsin has a great campus. Michigan State has a stronger fan base than most realize. Most other schools are in the middle of a cornfield. Yet, it’s the coaches of those schools who did the most belly-aching this off-season.

Look at the competitiveness in the SEC. The top level coaches stay quiet. It’s not that they don’t get mad at each other for poaching each other’s players. You know they do. But they’re too busy plotting their next scheme over each other to dwell on it for too long. They don’t worry about losing out on players, because they’re always working to find the edge to get the next great one.

It’s not a fool proof system either. While the SEC has Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida and now Texas A&M, they still have Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Missouri hasn’t been able to catch it’s breath since hopping over. Just like how the Big Ten has Purdue, Indiana, Illinois and Northwestern.

If Ohio State recruits at the Urban Meyer standard, common sense tells me that Michigan will be right there as well. For Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Michigan State, it’ll be all up to what they can sell to recruits. All three have something to offer, but will they really utilize it?

The stakes are higher than ever in college football. With a playoff system that includes more games, and more money, there will only be more pressure in the coming years. The Pac-12, the Big XII and ACC have all done their best to make themselves viable. Big Ten coaches will have to make their decision on if they will follow suit.

Ohio State plays Wisconsin next week, who is coached by the Big Ten’s biggest complainer, Bret Bielema. A coach who took to the press crying foul over Urban Meyer’s recruiting tactics, while the year before he found loopholes to land Russell Wilson.

In the coming years, those cries will fall on deaf ears. College Football (again whether we think it’s right or not) is not about what your opponent did to get an advantage, and whether or not that was right? It’s only about what you did to win.

You know where Urban Meyer stands. I wonder if it’s “on the play chart” for some other Big Ten coaches?

If not, either the conference as a whole suffers, or those schools will find a guy who does have it on his play chart.

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