Illini coach hopes Nits don't hold grudge

Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase drops back to pass last week in loss to Louisiana Tech.
Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase drops back to pass last week in loss to Louisiana Tech. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: September 25, 2012

STATE COLLEGE - Illinois first-year head coach Tim Beckman said Monday he did not regret his decision to send coaches to Penn State to recruit after the NCAA levied unprecedented penalties on the program. But, he said, he did regret that it ended up being so talked about.

In July, the NCAA hit Penn State with sanctions stemming from the university's handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal. The sanctions barred the school from postseason play for four seasons, imposed scholarship reductions and cost the university millions of dollars. However, any Penn State player could immediately transfer without having to sit out a season, meaning the Lions were de facto free agents.

At the Big Ten Media Days in Chicago in July, some coaches said they would not go after Penn State players. But Beckman did not deny that his assistants went to State College.

Since the sanctions were announced, Penn State has lost several players to other schools while others have left the team but remained enrolled at the university. The only player that transferred to Illinois was offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki.

The Lions and Fighting Illini open their Big Ten schedules against each other at noon Saturday in Champaign, Ill.

"This game was developed, I believe, for opportunity, and when we had that opportunity to go out and ask young men if they would come to us and tell you that they would like the opportunity to speak to us, I think that's what college football is about," Beckman said. "And I just regret that it ended up being [publicized] this much and it's still talked about, but it did give a young man the opportunity to make his decision on what he wanted to do."

Beckman said he spoke to Penn State coach Bill O'Brien in July during the conference's Media Days. He said he hopes any hard feelings are resolved and also praised O'Brien for the work he's done at Penn State.

At the Media Days, Penn State senior linebacker Michael Mauti expressed some strong feelings about the actions of other coaches.

"There's been coaches hounding our players man, like 10, 12 calls a day, 'Come out and visit, come here,' on our campus, outside of our apartments, outside of classrooms," Mauti said in a video posted on YouTube. "To me it just doesn't seem right. Even some coaches from this conference, which, if I'm a competitor, I don't care where you're from, if you're from any school, any conference, I got a problem with that."

Still, Beckman is not concerned that Illinois will be able to match Penn State's intensity on Saturday.

"Penn State's a good football team, and they're playing extremely well right now. We understand that," Beckman said. "So, I know that the intensity will be matched because it's a Big Ten football game."

Game time

Penn State's 93rd homecoming game against Northwestern will start at noon on Oct. 6.

The game will be televised by either ESPN or ESPN2.

The start times for two other Penn State games are: Oct. 20 at Iowa, 8 p.m., to be shown on Big Ten Network; and Oct. 27 vs. Ohio State at Beaver Stadium, 6 p.m., to be shown on either ESPN or ESPN2.


Contact Tim Gilbert at gilbertt@phillynews.com

 

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