- Scott Powers, Reporter
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CHICAGO -- Illinois coach Tim Beckman said Thursday he doesn't believe he should have to apologize or defend his program for sending coaches to recruit Penn State players in State College, Pa.
Beckman said Illinois contacted Penn State with a list of players it had planned on recruiting before arriving to State College on Wednesday. Beckman said he sent eight assistant coaches to State College, and they had notified Penn State players they would be at two off-campus sites, a coffee shop and restaurant, if they wanted to speak with them about transferring.
"Not at all," Beckman said at the Big Ten media when asked if he felt he had to defend or apologize for recruiting Penn State players. "We're just following the rules of the NCAA. We provided Penn State with the names of the people that prior to us even going there. Our compliance coordinator, Ryan Squire, and Mike Thomas, our athletic director, gave him a list of people that -- so that they were aware of before we got there of who those individuals might be.
"We're just following rules. We're compliant in everything that the Big Ten and NCAA has asked us to do. It wasn't a sneak attack because it was all up front prior to us even being there."
Beckman also said Illinois had been contacted by Penn State players who expressed an interest in transferring to Illinois prior to the Illini's coaches arrival to State College.
Beckman would not say how many Penn State players met with his coaches in State College or whether any had said they planned on transferring to Illinois.
"We gave them an opportunity to come to us," Beckman said. "We did not go after them. We told them where we at. If they would like to come and talk to our coaching staff, we were willing to talk to them off campus.
"There were certain individuals that reached out to us also. It wasn't where we were just going in blind, calling players up and doing that sort of thing."
ESPN reported Wednesday Penn State coach Bill O'Brien and his colleagues walked past six Illinois coaches carrying Illini bags, and there was no interaction between the two parties.
Beckman said he hadn't hoped to create a scene by sending coaches to State College on Wednesday.
"It was the bags that the guys were carrying," Beckman said. "I didn't want it to be a big scene and anything like that. It ended up being more of a scene than it was. Everything we've done has been NCAA compliant, Penn State knew and everything we were doing was already previously done before we already went."
Beckman said he and O'Brien spoke briefly on Wednesday morning, but they did not talk about Illinois recruiting Penn State players.
"No, we didn't get in depth about it," Beckman said. "In fairness to coach O'Brien, we were there for another meeting."
O'Brien would not comment Thursday about other schools recruiting his players.
"As far other schools on campus, I said my peace on that (Wednesday,)" O'Brien said. "I have no idea what schools were on campus nor do I care. I will tell you that's about all I have to say on that."
Wisconsin coach Brett Bielema and Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald were among the Big Ten coaches who said Thursday they would not recruit Penn State players out of respect for Penn State. Beckman said he understood other schools' decisions, but he also believed Penn State players should have an opportunity to transfer.
"I also feel that there's respect for those individuals if they want to transfer," Beckman said. "That was what we were doing. We just wanted to try to give the student-athletes an opportunity if they would like to change and come to the University of Illinois if that's what they do."