Smith, Meyer Respond To Recruiting Sniping

In the aftermath of two Big Ten head coaches expressing public dismay with the recruiting methods of Urban Meyer, the new head coach and OSU athletic director Gene Smith both released statements Friday defending their tactics.

"I am disappointed that negative references have been made about our football coaches, and particularly head coach Urban Meyer regarding recruiting," the Ohio State athletic director's statement said. "In our league appropriate protocol, if you have concerns, is to share those concerns with your Athletic Director (AD). Then your AD will make the determination on the appropriate communication from that point forward. The ADs in our league are professionals and communicate with each other extremely well. Urban Meyer and his staff have had a compliance conscience since they have arrived."

Meyer's statement came hours later after a regularly scheduled meeting with the league's coaches at the Big Ten offices in Chicago, a meeting Meyer said he was "pleased to take part in."

"We had an opportunity to discuss a number of issues with each other and conference staff, including those that have arisen this week," he said. "It should be noted that my coaching staff is in full compliance with our recruiting efforts, and no one on this staff did anything illegal or unethical. We will continue to comply with NCAA rules and recruit with relentless effort, especially the great state of Ohio.

"I want to thank Commissioner (Jim) Delany for his insight and leadership, and at this point we all look forward to moving past this week and getting ready for the start of spring football."

The two felt the need to respond after Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema had said Ohio State's recruiting tactics in this recruiting class, which was mostly closed Wednesday with National Signing Day, went above and beyond the rules.

"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."

Bielema never elaborated on what the illegal practices are.

In addition, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio told reporters, including the Detroit News, that he was displeased with Meyer's continued recruitment of committed players.

"I would say it's pretty unethical," Dantonio said. "You ask people for a commitment, you ask for people's trust, ask for people to make a commitment to you, but then you turn around and say it's OK to go back after somebody else's commitment. That's a double standard."

Neither coach specifically referred to a gentleman's agreement among Big Ten coaches not to recruit each others' committed players, though schools from around the league often continue to recruit until the final bell.

This isn't the first time coaches have complained publicly about one another. In 2008, then-Purdue head coach Joe Tiller referred to new Michigan head man Rich Rodriguez as "a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil" after Trotwood (Ohio) Madison wideout Roy Roundtree switched from Purdue to U-M on the last day.

However, Meyer's case seems to be unique. He has a reputation as a relentless recruiter but has never been accused or convicted of violations in his time. In addition, he was tasked with rebuilding OSU's class after taking over Nov. 28 after a 6-6 campaign clouded by uncertainty on the recruiting trail.

While the Buckeyes were under interim head coach Luke Fickell, OSU lost a number of in-state prospects they had figured to have good shots at obtaining. For example, Canton McKinley defensive end Se'Von Pittman chose MSU while Cleveland Heights offensive lineman Kyle Dodson went with Wisconsin; both switched to OSU after Meyer's hiring.

Dodson, for one, told he had been thinking of OSU all along even after his public choice of the Badgers, a feeling solidifed after his meeting with Meyer.

"I knew I wanted to go to Ohio State when Coach Meyer looked me in the eye and told me he really cared about me, even if I went somewhere else," Dodson told BSB. "Ohio State is the in-state school, but once Meyer came in I just knew it would be the right place for me to go."

For his part, Meyer said he respected the wishes of those who didn't want to join the OSU program and only recruited those who were receptive to his pitches. While discussing the matter, Meyer seemed to refer to Michigan commit Kyle Kalis of Lakewood St. Edward as a player who he reached out to and then stopped recruiting after getting a negative response.

"We went after a young guy in Cleveland, Ohio. I asked him if he was interested in Ohio State. He said no. I wished him the best of luck, do well in school, move on.

"Especially from your home state, you ask a man, 'Are you interested in Ohio State?' 'Yes, Coach, I've always wanted to be a Buckeye.' That's really the only way we've recruited. ... If the kid is not interested, we're done, we move on."

Meyer's first Ohio State class finished ranked third in the nation according to Scout.

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