Chicago, Ill. – Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz was full of answers Thursday at Big Ten Conference media day, but when asked how Penn State recovers from lost scholarships and a four-year postseason ban — he was stumped.
“I couldn’t even offer any thoughts on that,” Ferentz said. “I’ve never been remotely in anything similar to that, I’m not sure anyone has.
“I can tell you what it’s like to go 1-10 your first year. I can speak with authority on that topic.
“I can’t imagine anyone better than (new coach) Bill O’Brien to lead that program, but it’s going to be challenging.”
Reporters questioned everyone about the scandalized, once-revered program, which was hit with unprecedented punishments by the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference on Monday.
“There’s no manual for this,” O’Brien said. “My first job is to keep this 2012 football team together, and after that, it’s to do the best job we can.”
Keeping the team intact won’t be easy, considering the NCAA has allowed O’Brien’s players to transfer and immediately become eligible.
Illinois coach Tim Beckman even said Thursday that multiple Illini coaches were in State College on Wednesday. The only team that won’t accept a Penn State player is Ohio State, because they also are under scholarship restrictions.
“We won’t do that,” said Buckeyes athletic director Gene Smith, a former Iowa State AD. “We’re at our numbers. We’re under sanctions. We’re limited. We won’t go into Penn State.”
Beckman’s assistants were near the Penn State campus Wednesday, available if Nittany Lions players wanted to talk.
“We were in State College, but we did not go on campus,” Beckman said. “We went to two establishments outside campus and called some individuals, and if they wanted to come by, it was their opportunity to come by.”
Ferentz said he informed O’Brien that one Penn State player had called Iowa, but Hawkeyes coaches were not hitting the road.
“We’re going to do what we think is appropriate,” Ferentz said. “We live in the conference. We work in the conference. I have great respect for Bill O’Brien and his staff. That’s important to us.”
It’s important to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, too, who didn’t seem pleased that some Big Ten coaches were actively recruiting Penn State players. He even expressed his feelings to school presidents.
“My advice to them was this is not a healthy place to be,” Delany said.
If anyone knows about recovery, it’s Ohio State’s Smith, whose program was banned from the 2012 postseason after players under then-coach Jim Tressel were found to have received improper benefits.
“Rebounding for us was about finding the right leader, and recognizing what we had to do internally,” Smith said. “We were able to attract Urban Meyer as our football coach, which was a tremendous first step. He’s from Ohio. His wife is from Ohio. We couldn’t have hired anyone better, and that’s the same with Penn State.
“Bill O’Brien will do a tremendous job.”
O’Brien said at least twice while addressing reporters Thursday that he anticipated Beaver Stadium to be backed by the customary 108,000 fans throughout the punishment. He’s using that as motivation for his players.
“I talked to them about without a shadow of a doubt they’re going to be able to play six to seven bowl games per year in front of 108,000 screaming fans in Beaver Stadium, and I expect it to be 108,000 fans in Beaver Stadium,” he said.
O’Brien expects crowd support to continue — as it has at Ohio State.
“There are probably very few programs like Ohio State that could rebound like we have,” Smith said. “The support of Buckeye Nation hasn’t changed.
“Our brand is still strong — it’s one of the strongest in the world when it comes to colleges and athletics, and rebounding started with finding the right leader.
“We found one, and I’m sure Penn State has found one.”
Smith said Ohio State didn’t lose significant players. That’s unlikely at Penn State.
“It’s like NFL free agency without the rules,” said O’Brien, a former New England Patriots assistant. “So (coaches) can do what they want, as long as they tell our compliance office that they’re contacting these kids, and it is what it is.”
Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema is among the coaches who didn’t look up phone numbers of O’Brien’s players.
“I’m not casting doubt on anybody or questioning anything, but we made a decision that we would not actively pursue any Penn State players,” Bielema said.
Nonetheless, players will leave while O’Brien tries to restore Penn State’s once-pristine image, which could include, O’Brien said, changing the traditional blue-and-white uniforms.
“The new era of Penn State football,” O’Brien said, “and some of the changes people will have to wait and see on Sept. 1.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football