When four-star tackler Kyle Dodson flipped his commitment from Wisconsin to Ohio State on Signing Day 2012, Badgers head coach Bret Bielema had chastising words towards Urban Meyer for employing the practice of recruiting players committed to other Big Ten schools.
“I can tell you this,” Bielema told Sporting News in February. “We at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC in any way, shape or form.”
Bielema and assistant coach Pat Narduzzi a made reference to a gentleman’s agreement within the Big Ten that the coaches wouldn’t go after recruits who had already committed to Big Ten schools. Apparently that agreement does not exist though.
“I can’t speak for all the coaches in the league, so you’ll have to ask them if it’s becoming more common,” said Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who has been at the school since 2006. “As far as a gentleman’s agreement, I’ve never heard of anything of that nature.
“At the same time, I’m not going to have kids commit to another school and call me to say they want to visit. I tell them, ‘that’s great. If you want to visit, pick up the phone and call the other school to tell them you are no longer committed.’”
For sure, Coach Bielema does not follow the gentleman’s agreement, because look what happened to Illinois defensive end commitment Kenton Gibbs.
“Coach Bielema told me there was a lot of time between now and signing day,” said Gibbs, who now lists Wisconsin as one of the favorites to secure his commitment. “I thought about it and realized he’s right. I don’t know everything about Illinois, so after I thought about it, I didn’t see a reason that I shut down my recruitment. A bunch of other Big Ten schools still recruited me (while committed to Illinois). It’s not like they were going to stop calling me or telling my coaches to have me call them.”
The new age of college football has clearly hit the Big Ten, and they are already more like the SEC than they might care to admit.