Bielema no fan of SEC recruiting tactics

By: Bob Holt
Published: Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Bret Bielema was named Arkansas' head coach on Tuesday.
Photo by The Associated Press
Bret Bielema was named Arkansas' head coach on Tuesday.

— Bret Bielema took a shot at the SEC and its recruiting tactics last year after a high school player who had orally committed to Wisconsin signed with Ohio State and new Buckeyes Coach Urban Meyer, who came to the Big Ten Conference after winning two national championships at Florida.

“I can tell you this,” Bielema, Wisconsin’s coach the past seven years, said in a report by The Sporting News on Feb. 2. “We at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC — in any way, shape or form.”

Bielema’s comment drew a lot of laughs around the SEC considering its teams have won six consecutive BCS national championships and will go for seven in a row when Alabama plays Notre Dame.

Now Bielema will be recruiting against SEC teams on a full-time basis as Arkansas’ new coach. He accepted an offer Tuesday to leave Wisconsin for Arkansas.

If Bielema’s recruiting stance remains the same as he stated in February, it could make for some interesting moments with other coaches at the SEC spring meetings.

Bielema’s critical comments about Meyer came on signing day last February after Kyle Dodson, a highly regarded offensive tackle from Cleveland Heights, signed with Ohio State after making an oral commitment to Wisconsin in June — several months before Meyer was hired as the Buckeyes’ coach.

Meyer also signed players who previously had committed to Michigan State and Penn State.

Oral commitments are nonbinding.

“There’s a few things that happened early on that I made people be aware of, that I didn’t want to see in this league, that I had seen take place in other leagues,” Bielema said during his signing day news conference. “Other recruiting tactics, other recruiting practices that are illegal.”

Bielema talked about a “gentleman’s agreement” among Big Ten coaches not to recruit players once they orally commit to a school and that Meyer “broke” with decorum.

“I was very upfront, very pointed to the fact — actually reached out to Coach Meyer and shared my thoughts and concerns with him,” Bielema said at his signing day news conference. “The situation got rectified.”

Bielema added he was glad Big Ten coaches are held to a different standard than coaches in some other conferences when it comes to recruiting.

“Our league is based on certain values that we’re going to hold to be true,” Bielema told ESPN.Chicago, “and if you don’t hold those to be true, you are going to be held accountable.”

Meyer defended his recruiting, noting that he approached in-state recruits after being hired.

“Sometimes they say, ‘How can you go recruit a young guy committed to another school?’ ” Meyer told reporters after he was criticized by Bielema and Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio “You ask a question, ‘Are you interested?’ If they say, ‘No,’ you move on.

“If they say, ‘Yes, very interested,’ then you throw that hook out there. They’re interested, absolutely [you recruit them], especially from your home state. Is it gratifying to take a guy from another school? Not at all.”

Bielema talked last year about how well Big Ten coaches get along.

“There’s a common thread in this league,” he said. “Every time we walk into a coaches meeting in the offseason, there’s a mutual sign of respect.”

Sports, Pages 22 on 12/05/2012