- Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior Writer
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CHICAGO -- To recruit Penn State players or not to?
That's one of the dilemmas facing other Big Ten coaches after the NCAA ruled Penn State's current players could transfer to any FBS school without penalties after the Nittany Lions were hammered on Monday with five years' NCAA probation, including a four-year bowl ban.
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, whose own team faces a one-year bowl ban this coming season, said they've decided not to actively pursue Penn State players. Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said he wouldn't seek out any Nittany Lions transfers, but would listen to them if they called him.
But Purdue's Danny Hope and Illinois' Tim Beckman said they'll talk to any Penn State players who are interested in leaving.
"The NCAA has established the rules and the guidelines and obviously because they're strong from an ethics standpoint, and as long as we're compliant, we're going to exercise every opportunity we can to enhance our own football team," Hope said.
The Illini have been one of the most aggressive teams in pursuing Penn State's players the past few days. Penn State coaches told ESPN that they passed six coaches wearing Illini gear in the airport in State College, Pa., on Wednesday.
Beckman, a former Toledo coach who was hired by the Illini to replace the fired Ron Zook, said his coaches never stepped on the Penn State campus. But Beckham wasn't shy about saying Illinois is actively recruiting Penn State's current players.
"We only talked to individuals who came to us," Beckman said. "It was brought to our attention by two individuals prior to even any sanctions being granted by the NCAA that an opportunity might present itself for a transfer.
"We did not go onto their campus. We only talked to individuals that would be willing to meet with us. We did not go after them. They had the opportunity to come to us if they would like to come to us and speak to us, and that's how we handled the situation."
Bielema, who has taken fifth-year transfers like former NC State quarterback Russell Wilson and Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien, said he won't raid Penn State's roster for players.
"I think that what Penn State is going through right now is something that they have championed over the last several days and the last several weeks," Bielema said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for [Nittany Lions coach Bill] O'Brien and everything that he's going through. I think one of the things that I've loved and appreciated about being in this conference is there is a genuine respect for everybody in our league that you are a Big Ten brother and you're a guy that sits in our conference meeting rooms. You're a guy that listens to [Big Ten commissioner] Jim Delany, and we're a group of coaches that have a network that's beyond anybody's expectations and helping us in recruiting."
Added Meyer, who's in his first season at OSU after leading Florida to two BCS national championships:
"I have a problem with [recruiting Penn State's players]. I think if a player reaches out and says, 'I'm outta here and I'm gone,' a player has a right to do what he wants to do. But to go actively recruit, I have a problem with that."
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