Opposing coaches descend on Penn State seeking players

Michael Zordich (left front) and Michael Mauti lead a show of unity by about 30 Penn State players.
Michael Zordich (left front) and Michael Mauti lead a show of unity by about 30 Penn State players. (NABIL K. MARK / Centre Daily Times)
Posted: July 27, 2012

About 30 Penn State players interrupted their workouts in the Lasch Football Building on Wednesday morning to step outside in a show of unity and commitment for the Nittany Lions' beleaguered football program.

A few hours later, the players were unable to leave the same building on the campus in State College, Pa., lest they run into coaches from other universities trying to persuade them to transfer out of Penn State.

Welcome to the ultimate feeding frenzy, college football style. And so much for institutional control.

In announcing sanctions Monday, including a four-year bowl ban and reductions in scholarships through 2017, the NCAA relaxed its rules to allow Penn State players to transfer to other schools without having to sit out a year, and permit schools to contact Nittany Lions players as long as they informed the university of their intentions.

The penalties were the NCAA's response to the failure of university officials and former coach Joe Paterno to do more to stop convicted child-sex offender Jerry Sandusky.

But the NCAA couldn't have anticipated this. The parking lot behind the Lasch Building was crawling Wednesday with coaches from a number of schools. Some coaches even hung out at residences waiting for players to come outside.

"We have chosen to stay at PSU & other opposing coaches are outside our apartment," senior cornerback Stephon Morris said on Twitter. "Was that the intention of the NCAA? #leaveusalone"

Head coach Bill O'Brien, who spent time Wednesday on the ESPN campus in Bristol, Conn., conducting interviews, said his players were trapped inside the Lasch Building.

"Our players are in our building right now, and they don't want to leave the building because there are coaches from other schools in the parking lot waiting to see them," O'Brien told ESPN.com.

The website reported that as O'Brien was leaving State College for Bristol, he passed six coaches carrying bags and suitcases with the Illinois logo.

That has been the new world order for Penn State. Schools have identified players they want to go after and are doing their best to persuade them to move. Reports indicated that some players have received as many as 50 scholarship offers.

While coaches have to notify only Penn State's compliance office of their interest in a player, O'Brien indicated he wouldn't mind a courtesy call.

He mentioned three head coaches who have called - Central Florida's George O'Leary, Syracuse's Doug Marrone, and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz.

"I do think there is a protocol," he said in a SportsCenter interview. "These are guys that are standup guys, and they've said: 'Look, if our guys contact them, they'll listen, they'll talk to them. At the end of the day, we just want to let you know that that's how we're going to handle it.'

"So guys that I have previous relationships with have reached out to me. I would hope that coaches that are recruiting our kids would, at the very least, maybe get an evaluation of that young man's talent as a football player."

Junior tailback Silas Redd, perhaps the prize catch of the Nittany Lions, has not made a decision on whether to stay or leave, two days after it was reported that Southern California was interested. Redd did not appear with the players who issued a statement expressing their commitment to the program for 2012.

The show of unity was led by seniors Michael Zordich and Michael Mauti, both sons of former Penn State players.

"As a team, we don't see this as a punishment," Zordich said. "This is an opportunity. This is the greatest opportunity a Penn Stater could ever be given. We have an obligation to Penn State, and we have the ability to fight for not just a team, not just a program, but an entire university and every man who wore the blue and white on that gridiron before us."

Mauti called it "an opportunity to create our own legacy."

"This program was not built by one man, and this program sure as hell is not going to get torn down by one man," he said. "No sanctions, no politician is ever going to take away what we got here. None of that is ever going to tear us apart. All we can do is put our heads down and go to work."

Players who stood behind Zordich and Mauti during their remarks included defensive end Pete Massaro (Marple Newtown High) and quarterback Matt McGloin, along with starters Stephon Morris, Matt Stankiewicz, Donovan Smith, Adam Gress, and John Urschel.

A Penn State spokesman said more players would have shown up but had schedule conflicts with classes or internships.

Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @joejulesinq. Read his blog, "Lion Eyes," at www.philly.com/sports/lioneyes

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