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Friday, February 3, 2012
Urban Meyer: Buckeyes in compliance

By Joe Schad
ESPN

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer defended his staff's recruiting practices on Friday, following comments from some Big Ten coaches who lost recruits to the Buckeyes about "flipping" prospects who have made verbal commitments.

Meyer made the comments in a prepared statement issued after a regularly scheduled Big Ten coaches meeting on Friday in suburban Chicago. His statement came hours after Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith defended Meyer and his staff.

That meeting resulted in Big Ten coaches agreeing there's no "gentlemen's agreement" on contacting verbally committed recruits, but also with a determination to respect one another on the recruiting trail, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald told ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg on Friday.

"We had an opportunity to discuss a number of issues with each other and conference staff, including those that have arisen this week," Meyer said of the meeting in his statement. "It should be noted that my coaching staff is in full compliance with our recruiting efforts, and no one on this staff did anything illegal or unethical. We will continue to comply with NCAA rules and recruit with relentless effort, especially the great state of Ohio.

It should be noted that my coaching staff is in full compliance with our recruiting efforts, and no one on this staff did anything illegal or unethical. We will continue to comply with NCAA rules and recruit with relentless effort, especially the great state of Ohio.

-- Urban Meyer

"I want to thank (Big Ten commissioner Jim) Delany for his insight and leadership, and at this point we all look forward to moving past this week and getting ready for the start of spring football."

The coaches met with Delany and by themselves in executive session for about an hour, during which the recruiting spat was discussed, Fitzgerald said. The coaches agreed on what's acceptable and not acceptable in recruiting and came out of the meeting unified as a group, he said.

"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," Fitzgerald said.

Eleven of the league's 12 coaches attended the meeting, said Fitzgerald, who chairs the Big Ten coaches' group. Penn State's Bill O'Brien, who is with the New England Patriots preparing for the Super Bowl, wasn't present.

"There's a complete and total respect among all 11 guys that 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," Fitzgerald said of the consensus reached during the meeting.

"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," Fitzgerald added. "We're all on the same page. Sometimes things get a little misrepresented or misunderstood or taken the wrong way. I think that's what happened here."

Meyer's first Ohio State recruiting class on Wednesday included eight players who initially had said they were attending another school, including four who originally said they were going to Penn State and one each who had declared they would go to Michigan State and Wisconsin. Two others had verbally committed to Notre Dame.

Asking a committed recruit if he would be interested in signing with a different school is not a violation of NCAA rules.

Some coaches had suggested there is an unwritten rule within the Big Ten that prevents such activity. But Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez -- the Badgers' former coach -- said Friday that there's no such pact.

"Recruiting is recruiting until they sign," Alvarez said. "If we had somebody who changed their mind and came to us, that's OK. Urban (Meyer) was very aggressive, but there is no pact within the conference not to continue to recruit. It's open season until they sign."

That came two days after one of Alvarez's employees, Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema, expressed frustration when four-star offensive lineman Kyle Dodson switched his commitment from the Badgers to Ohio State.

"There are a few things that happened early on that I made people aware of that I didn't want to see in this league, that I had seen take place in other leagues," Bielema said on signing day. "Other recruiting tactics, other recruiting practices that are illegal. I was very upfront and was very pointed to the fact, actually reached out to coach Meyer and shared my thoughts and concerns with him. The situation got rectified."

Bielema did not address specifics, but on Friday said he was not alleging NCAA rules violations were committed within the Big Ten.

"We are moving forward," Bielema said after Friday's coaches' meeting.

Fitzgerald was asked whether Bielema and Meyer talked the situation during the meeting.

"There's a feeling of mutual respect among everybody in that meeting. I'd rather have the comments and discussions that were had between Bret and Urban discussed with Bret and Urban. That's not my place to discuss," Fitzgerald said.

Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who also expressed his displeasure after the Spartans lost committed defensive end Se'Von Pittman to Ohio State, told an Ohio newspaper that Spartans coach Mark Dantonio and ex-Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel had an agreement not to recruit each others' verbal commitments.

"(The agreement) has been between the coaches," Narduzzi said, according to the Canton Repository. "Jim Tressel and Mark Dantonio would never call or talk to each other's commitments. People coach Dantonio knows well don't come in and take players away. When you do, you lose friendships over that."

The criticism reached the point that Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith felt the need to defend his new coach.

"I am disappointed that negative references have been made about our football coaches, and particularly head coach Urban Meyer regarding recruiting," Smith said in a statement issued Friday. "In our league appropriate protocol, if you have concerns, is to share those concerns with your athletic director. Then your AD will make the determination on the appropriate communication from that point forward. The ADs in our league are professionals and communicate with each other extremely well.

"Urban Meyer and his staff have had a compliance conscience since they have arrived."

Meyer told ESPN.com that if a committed recruit says he's solid in his decision, he doesn't call him again.

"You've got a responsibility to your home state," Meyer said. "Absolutely. There is not a coach in America who's not going to do that, not going to check on his own state."

Dodson and Pittman are from Ohio. Dodson attends Cleveland Heights High School; Pittman goes to McKinley High School in Canton.

Dantonio also commented on Ohio State's recruiting in the signing day results. On Friday, he said his statement -- in which he appeared to question Ohio State's ethics -- was improperly edited and taken out of context.

"The timing of my comments was a reflection of an occurring matter on signing day and had nothing to do with Urban Meyer and Ohio State. My comments regarding 'unethical' behavior were general in nature, according to my current coaching philosophy, and not directed toward any particular institution," Dantonio said in a statement.

Joe Schad covers college football for ESPN. ESPN.com Big Ten writer Adam Rittenberg and The Associated Press contributed to this report.