Big Ten: Mark Pantoni

Big Ten morning links

February, 9, 2015
Feb 9
Maybe Jim Harbaugh felt a little extra fire in the belly after his Gatorade-soaked Wheaties on Saturday morning when the Michigan coach apparently decided to pick a fight with Ohio State.

We heard plenty late last week about the untimely departure to the Chicago Bears of Ohio State running backs coach Stan Drayton – and how it upset new signee Mike Weber of Detroit, who selected the Buckeyes over Michigan in part because of his relationship with Drayton.

Well, Harbaugh’s decision to weigh in – if that is, in fact, what he did – brought more attention to a simmering issue in recruiting with legs far beyond the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry.

Mark Pantoni, Ohio State director of player personnel, fired back, evoking a response from Harbaugh’s son, U-M tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh, which erased any doubt about the intentions of the original tweet.

Houston coach Tom Herman, the Buckeyes’ former offensive coordinator, and even Shelley Meyer got involved. Lest we lose sight of the issue, Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Bill Livingston writes that the Buckeyes' tactics were questionable.

This would make for great February fun if Weber wasn’t stuck in the middle. Similar situations are playing out with prospects who pledged to attend or signed with UCLA, Texas, Florida and Notre Dame.

It's not going to be fixed by trash talk on Twitter.

I won't get on a soapbox over the silly nature of the reasoning that kids should pick a school for the school, not the coach. The peddlers of that propaganda will also remind you that recruiting is first about relationships.

To argue over which notion makes more sense is to go round and round in a discussion with no logical conclusion.

And that leaves us where? Well, perhaps, on the cusp of a solution.

Remember the recent news that the Division I conference commissioners would vote in June to institute an early signing period in December 2015? If the early signing period passes, it would go into effect for two years on a trial basis, with prospects allowed 72 hours to sign in conjunction with the mid-year junior college signing period.

The early period would bring some problems, notably many more opportunities for recruits to sign unwittingly with schools that then lose coaches. To boost the viability of the December signing period, as Jon Solomon of CBS Sports recently reported, the commissioners might consider adding an out clause to the National Letter of Intent.

If an out clause existed for December signees, it should apply in February, too, when similar circumstances exist.

And Ohio State coaches, in this situation, would likely feel compelled to keep a prospect like Weber up to date, even if it reduced the chance of signing him.

All parties would agree that the happiness and comfort of a student-athlete is more important than the last word in a Twitter scuffle between privileged adults. Right?

On to the links from the rest of the league:

Big Ten lunch links

May, 15, 2014
The spring meeting of Big Ten athletic directors is over. Back to the offseason lists and polls.
  • Wrapping up from Rosemont, the “cost of attendance” discussion remains alive.
  • Good take by Andrew Logue on the complexities of Jim Delany.
  • More Big Ten athletic directors weigh in on the eastward movement of the league. Just don't expect the football championship game to go the way of the basketball tourney.
  • Iowa AD Gary Barta comments on the status of the Hawkeyes’ series with Iowa State.
  • Illinois wants to make it clear: No alcohol sales at Memorial Stadium. But is Michigan heading in a different direction? Other athletic directors discuss the issue.
  • Michigan State and Notre Dame would like to keep playing, but the format of the series will change.
  • More details from the incident that that led to the arrest of former Minnesota and Rutgers QB Philip Nelson.
  • Former Chicago prep star running back Ty Isaac is leaving USC. Next stop, the Big Ten?
  • Solid results for Big Ten football programs in the NCAA’s new report for 2012-13 on academic progress rates, including a big jump for new member Maryland.
  • Rare insight into the work of Mark Pantoni, the Ohio State director of player personnel, a job with a wide range of responsibilities.
  • Tom Shatel remembers the football career of a former two-sport Nebraska star who continues to bring a grinder mentality to his alma mater.
  • Ex-Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez fails a physical with the Eagles. Some insight into the alleged bike theft by Nebraska linebacker Josh Banderas.
  • A Rutgers offensive line recruit brings plenty of intensity.
  • Eugene Lewis looks like a worthy replacement for Allen Robinson at Penn State. James Franklin has watched “Moneyball” at least seven times. A new Nittany Lions logo arrives as part of a $10 million scoreboard replacement project.
  • It’s a tradition at Michigan for its quarterback pledges join in the recruiting battle.
College coaches often say the best recruiters are the players already on the team and those verbally committed to the program. Ohio State recruit Damon Webb and his fellow future Buckeyes are doing their part with a unique approach.

Webb, one of seven players verbally committed to Ohio State for the 2014 class, has launched a website to promote Ohio State, share recruiting stories and, most importantly, get others to play for the Scarlet and Gray. The site,, launched Wednesday with the mission to "recruit and have fun."

"We will share on and off the field stuff, our path to national signing day, our senior football seasons, and our upcoming visits to Columbus," the site reads. "We are champions and we are recruiting champions to help us win national championships! Are you the next Buck?"

Webb, a defensive back from Detroit, was the second recruit to verbally to commit to Ohio State back in January. After returning from a 7-on-7 combine earlier this month near Chicago, Webb told his parents he wanted to do something to bring together his recruiting class and hopefully add to it. Webb’s father, Damon, said Webb had watched how Michigan 2013 recruit Shane Morris, a quarterback from nearby Warren, Mich., had maximized Twitter and Facebook to connect with other recruits.

“I was like, ‘Social media’s where it’s at,’” Webb’s mom, Stephanie, told on Thursday. “I design websites, so I said, ‘Why don’t I make you guys a website?’”

Damon Jr. liked the idea and Stephanie, who teaches Web design and technology at the University of Detroit, began setting up a basic site. Before publishing anything, Stephanie Webb reached out to Mark Pantoni, Ohio State's director of player personnel, to make sure the site would be NCAA compliant. Pantoni, who informed head coach Urban Meyer of the site, gave it the green light, noting that none of the staff members can participate on it because of NCAA rules.

Stephanie finished the main page Wednesday and told her husband, who "jumped the gun" by mentioning the site on his Twitter page. Some of the other Buckeye commits didn't know about the site until it went live.

"They were probably shocked," Damon Sr. said with a laugh.

The site includes pictures of all seven Ohio State commits -- noting the order in which they committed -- and then asks, "Who is next?" The Webbs also launched a Twitter page on Wednesday that already has more than 700 followers.

"I didn't know it would get this reaction," Stephanie Webb said.

Damon Webb Jr. and the other Buckeye commits will post more content in the coming days and manage the site. Recruiting tends to bring out the worst in college football fans, so to prevent trolling, Stephanie will approve any comment before it goes live to the site.

Damon Sr. says the site allows the Ohio State commits to "show their togetherness and try to recruit other guys who are still on the fence." It also reinforces the commitment for Damon Jr., the subject of rumors about possibly flipping to archrival Michigan.

"That's still kind of going around," Damon Sr. said. "A lot of people that think he might decommit from Ohio State. I felt like if they saw this, they'll see he's pretty steadfast."

While Ohio State recruits take to the Web, a Michigan recruit is going the apparel route to promote the program for the 2014 class. Linebacker commit Michael Ferns in February created Project 135, where he sends out blue T-shirts to each new Wolverines recruit.

"As commits wear the shirts to events, we'll get the attention of other potential recruits who may not have been looking towards Michigan at first," Ferns wrote on his Twitter page.

It'll be interesting to see if these recruit-driven marketing campaigns become a national trend. You know coaches won't stand in the way.

"The recruiting game," Stephanie Webb said, "is changing."