B1G coaches 'on same page' after meeting


Big Ten coaches didn't sing "Kumbaya" after Friday's meeting at league headquarters in Park Ridge, Ill.

"I don't think anybody wanted to sing," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said, laughing.

But the leagues coaches finished the meeting with handshakes after a contentious week regarding recruiting.

Fitzgerald, the chair of the Big Ten coaches' group, told ESPN.com on Friday the coaches are "unified" and "on the same page" regarding recruiting practices after meeting for several hours. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema had voiced concerns about the recruiting practices of Ohio State coach Urban Meyer earlier this week, although Bielema told colleague Joe Schad on Friday that he never accused Meyer of violating NCAA recruiting rules. Bielema said the coaches "are moving forward."

Eleven of the league's 12 head coaches gathered Friday for a non-mandatory meeting (Penn State's Bill O'Brien, who is preparing for Sunday's Super Bowl, didn't attend).

"We understand what's acceptable and what's not acceptable in recruiting," Fitzgerald told ESPN.com. "We also talked about regardless of what's been reported, we agreed there's been no basis for accusing any coaches of illegal or unethical recruiting. There's been no gentleman's agreement inhibiting recruitment of verbally committed players, but we're going to do all of our recruiting based on respect for each other.

"Nothing but great dialogue."

Meyer issued a statement earlier Friday calling the meeting "productive" and reiterating that his coaches been in full NCAA compliance and that "no one on this staff did anything illegal or unethical." Bielema on Wednesday said he contacted Meyer about some recruiting issues and "the situation got rectified." Sporting News reported Thursday that Bielema had asked Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez to contact Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany about Meyer's recruiting methods.

But things seemed to be smoothed over during Friday's meeting. While Fitzgerald didn't want to speak for Bielema and Meyer -- "I'd rather have the comments and discussions that were had between Bret and Urban discussed with Bret and Urban," he said -- he doesn't think there's bad blood between the league's coaches.

"Everybody's on the same page," Fitzgerald said. "We're going to do everything relentlessly for our programs and do everything we can to sign the best players we possibly can for our programs, but we're always going to do it with the utmost respect. Regardless of what was reported in the media, we all agree that there was no basis for accusing any coaches of illegal or unethical recruiting."

Delany met with the coaches for a portion of the meeting, and the coaches also met by themselves in executive session. Fitzgerald said the commissioner didn't admonish any coaches for the public spat that surfaced late this week.

"We work through everything together collectively with Jim," Fitzgerald said. "You’re always given a chance to vent and have things discussed. That's healthy. It allows us to get everything on the table."