In November of 1864, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman issued “Special Field Orders, No. 120.” The key part of that famous — or infamous, depending on your view — missive stated that his army would “forage liberally on the country during the march” through Georgia. The same order was given when Sherman decided to march back up from Savannah through the Carolinas, as well.
Well last Monday, the NCAA issued its own Special Field Orders regarding Penn State. By allowing Nittany Lion players to transfer without the penalty of having to sit out a year — and even allowing schools to go over the 85-man scholarship limit in order to ink them — Mark Emmert basically gave rival coaches the go-ahead to forage liberally upon Penn State’s roster.
Some schools took quick advantage. LSU, Ole Miss and Tennessee have all already been connected with PSU players, for example. Steve Spurrier at South Carolina, on the other hand, has said he isn’t actively pursuing any of Bill O’Brien’s players. Georgia’s Mark Richt initially said he would contact Penn Staters but then reversed course (as though he’d been ordered by UGA brass to do so… or had an angel visit him to instruct him otherwise). Richt even wished O’Brien well.
Naturally, Southern Cal’s Lane Kiffin took things to the extreme by actually flying across the country to meet with current Penn State running back Silas Redd in Connecticut.
While the raiding parties have been formed, to date no big-time PSU players have transferred.
On this matter, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer actually provides the voice of reason when it comes to recruiting players from another man’s roster:
“I have a problem with it. 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.”
That’s the correct take, but 20 bucks says a Penn Stater or two will still land on Meyer’s roster anyway.
We all know that illegal contacts are made all the time. When you see a coach place restrictions on an athlete’s potential landing spots, it usually means the coach feels another coach has been tampering with his roster. Coaches don’t like that. Which is exactly why coaches should put themselves in O’Brien’s shoes and think about how they would feel if open season had been declared on their roster.
If a Nittany Lion player calls a coach? Hey, the coach should answer the phone. You don’t want to be rude (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). But to openly chase, lure and hunt another school’s players is bad form. And whether the NCAA has given the green light to wipe Penn State from the face of the Earth or not, it certainly takes the moral high ground away from any coach who leads a raiding party into Happy Valley. If someone actively seeks out the signature of a current Penn State player, he had better keep his own lips zipped the next time some other school’s coach makes behind-the-scenes contact with an unhappy player on his roster.
All’s fair in love and recruiting and if Coach X doesn’t take part in the Penn State feeding frenzy then it’s possible he’ll be at a disadvantage when he faces Coaches Y and Z in his own conference. Them’s the breaks. There’s right and there’s wrong. Answering a Penn State player’s phone call is alright. Trying to swipe guys right out from under O’Brien’s nose is wrong.
Coaches better realize that. ‘Cause what comes around often goes around when it comes to big-time athletics.