Tim Banks, Penn State’s new co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach, said Thursday it was “greatly regrettable” when Illinois, his previous employer, dispatched coaches to recruit on PSU’s campus after NCAA sanctions were handed down in 2012, in the wake of the Sandusky scandal.
Banks spent four years as co-DC and secondary coach at Illinois — the first three under Tim Beckman and last season under interim boss Bill Cubit, who filled in after Beckman was fired and has since been given the full-time post. Banks left in December and was hired in mid-January by Nittany Lions coach James Franklin, a friend of Banks’ from their days on the Maryland staff in the mid-2000s, to help replace Bob Shoop. Shoop departed to become the coordinator at Tennessee.
It was under Beckman that Illini staffers came on campus to woo Penn State players, who because of the sanctions were allowed to transfer without penalty. No other staff is known to have followed suit, and the poaching attempt did not sit well in Happy Valley.
“Obviously that was a situation that was greatly regrettable for all parties involved, from the top of the administration down to the coaching staff,” Banks said in a conference call with reporters, the first time he has been made available since his hiring. “It was an unusual situation at that time, and I think if you had a chance to do it again, I think better decisions would have been made.”
Illinois wound up netting one player from Penn State — backup offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki, who subsequently left Champaign as well. And despite the reaction at the time, Franklin had no concerns about reaching out to his old friend.
“I know the type of man that Tim is,” he said shortly after Banks came aboard. “I know his values. I know his morals. Tim was a part of that staff, and Tim was put in a very difficult situation, and we've discussed that."
“I know the type of man that Tim is. I know his values. I know his morals. Tim was a part of that staff, and Tim was put in a very difficult situation, and we've discussed that."
— James Franklin
And if Banks is to be believed, there is no lingering ill will. PSU’s players have, he said, “welcomed (him) with open arms.”
Franklin and Banks are so close that Banks’ wife is godmother to one of Franklin’s daughters. So after leaving Illinois — because, Banks said, there was “a different direction, different philosophies” — he leapt at the opportunity to join forces with his friend once again.
“I had some different options,” Banks said, “but growing up in the Midwest and being in this Big Ten footprint, I always had a love affair with great programs, and obviously I consider Penn State one of the great programs (in) the country.”
He tagged along as the staff closed out the recruiting cycle in January, and was impressed with everybody’s attention to detail, as well as their resolve.
“They’re relentless, they really are,” he said. “And it’s contagious. You want to hold up your end of the bargain.”
Banks did not know PSU co-DC Brent Pry before his arrival, but had heard good things about him. He said that the similarity in their philosophies is “really eerie.”
“Exactly how they’ve played is very, very similar to how I’ve played,” Banks said. “Obviously we want to be able to stop the run, put (opponents) in what we deem is low-percentage situations — meaning second-and-long, third-and-long situations. Obviously there’s a variety of ways to do that.”
He believes Pry will put his own stamp on the defense, and said he hopes to be “a sounding board” for him.
Banks said that while at Illinois he crossed paths with PSU holdover safety Marcus Allen, then a high school player in Maryland, but didn’t recruit him.
“Unfortunately,” Banks said, “we weren’t recruiting to that level.”
He has gotten to know the other defensive backs since arriving on campus, having met them during morning workouts or over breakfast. He has also reviewed last year’s game video, but said he will not feel comfortable evaluating the veterans until he has a chance to work with them during spring practice.
“As I watch the film it’s hard (to assess them), because you don’t know if it’s the call, you don’t know what was practiced that particular week,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s fair to the kids to be able to say what they bring to the table from a strength or weakness standpoint yet, until I physically get a chance to coach them.”
Banks, once a cornerback at Central Michigan, has coached at his alma mater, as well as Ferris State, Bowling Green, Memphis and Cincinnati. At Illinois, Banks recruited Indianapolis “a ton,” and also spent time in Georgia and California. At PSU, his territory will include Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and part of Pennsylvania.