April 11, 2012

Bielema focuses on Meyer again

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Follow Noon | Rowland | Givler | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Here we go again.

Two months after the Urban Meyer-Bret Bielema quarrel appeared to be settled, the finger pointing from Madison is has returned. In a wide-ranging, yet unsubstantiated report published by Sporting News on Meyer's last season in Gainesville, Bielema's complaints about Meyer's "illegal recruiting tactics" - as the Wisconsin coach referred to them - are detailed.

Bielema caused a firestorm in February as national signing day approached. It was reported then that Bielema accused Meyer of breaking a "gentlemen's agreement" - that does or does not exist depending on which coach you speak to - among Big Ten coaches in relation to contacting other schools' verbal commitments.

Meyer has steadfastly denied any recruiting violations and been outspoken about doing things the right way. It is well-documented that Meyer played by the rules in the no-holds-barred SEC.

The verbal spat between Meyer and Bielema made headlines across the sports world before the matter was settled in Chicago at the spring coaches meetings with commissioner Jim Delany.

Bielema's complains centered around the Buckeyes' recruitment of Cleveland Heights offensive tackle Kyle Dodson, a recruit who verballed to the Badgers before Meyer was hired by Ohio State. The Sporting News story says Bielema was not mad about a gentlemen's agreement, but instead concerned about Meyer having "bumped" into Dodson during a dead period.

The term "bumped" or "bumping" in recruiting jargon meaning a coach accidentally saw a recruit during a timeframe the NCAA limits contact between coaches and recruits. The practice of "bumping" is an NCAA violation.

"When that whole thing came out … it was obviously a lot to be written," Bielema said on Tuesday after practice. "Not to slight (the media), but a lot of time what's being written isn't exactly what's reality. That's getting closer to it.

"I just know this. We handle ourselves in a certain way. In the Big Ten conference, we've been able to do that. When I called Coach Meyer and expressed a certain thing, he addressed it and handled it very quickly."

Bielema said the NCAA looked into the allegations of impropriety. Still, the sometimes haughty Bielema admitted he could have handled the situation better in February and not spoken with such fervor. Accusing others of wrongdoing is no way to make friends in the coaching fraternity.

"The only regret is that I probably didn't address it (with the media) cleaner and quicker," Bielema said. "Any time you see something out there floating around that's not really reality, it's better to just cease it and stop it. Obviously, it got a life of its own."

Part of the reason why, though, was because Bielema was talking about Meyer, one of the biggest names in the sport, and because the Wisconsin coach wouldn't back down. He sang a different tune on Tuesday, side-stepping questions that two months ago he would have pounced on.

"It's just a lot of stuff that's probably spinning its wheels," Bielema said. "The only thing I am worried about is all the guys we are recruiting and how we recruit them. Obviously, when you come into competition with other schools and you become aware of anything that concerns you, you have an obligation to say something."

Ohio State travels to Camp Randall on November 17 - the week before the regular-season finale with Michigan - to face off against the two-time defending Big Ten champion Wisconsin Badgers.

Here's guessing there'll be a little something extra in the air that day.


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