In a sleepy, muggy conference room at Tuesday morning’s Big Ten Media Days session, ears began to perk up.
A reporter from East Lansing had just asked Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio about a “report he had seen from the Reading Eagle that had alluded to negative recruiting toward Penn State.”
“I know we have a lot of reporters here,” Dantonio said. “Everybody’s got a pen. But from my standpoint, I have not said anything negative about Penn State. And hopefully our coaches have not as well.
“I was surprised to read that. I don’t know what happens out there on the road completely. But it’s not our M-O. And that’s not how we do business.”
A little more than an hour later, the same question was posed to Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, citing the same article.
“That’s a pretty strong allegation that I’ve not heard yet,” said Meyer. “Absolutely not. If it’s an issue, I’ll address it with (Penn State head coach) James Franklin.”
The report in question, a Q&A with Franklin that took place in June, does contain a paragraph that mentions Michigan State, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan. Here is the full paragraph, from Reading’s Rich Scarcella, for context:
“The one thing that I can’t predict is when there is going to be finality to everything. A month ago, I’m in Chicago at a wedding of one of my former players and the most recent things (allegations that late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was told that Sandusky abused children in the 1970s) come up. I spend all Friday and Saturday on the phone talking to all of our players because other schools are contacting them and telling them the NCAA is going to get involved again and impose more sanctions. I think everybody will feel really good when everything has been resolved and we can truly put this thing in our past. When I say our past, I don’t mean we just move on.
“We have to learn and grow from those experiences. We have to have things in place to make sure we don’t have any issues moving forward. I think one of the things that’s a challenge is as Penn Staters, we’re so proud and we know what we’re all about and who we are. The people we’re competing with — Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame — this is just not something they have to deal with. Although we want to move on, those other schools are not letting us move on. I think in so many areas we can be really, really healthy in 2018. We can be in a really good position to have the type of program everybody wants us to have. The thing that we don’t know is when is everything going to be resolved.”
Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour met with the media moments later, and did not disclose the specific schools in question.
Barbour did confirm the nature of the negative recruiting toward Penn State, however.
“It’s something that has been going on around our sanctions, around our relationship with the NCAA, but frankly, of late, it’s been taken to a new level,” she said. “What’s being used has given the new Sandusky news; ‘Penn State is going to get on probation again.’
“That’s flat out untrue. The NCAA is very pleased with how we’ve handled (that). Both the Big Ten and the NCAA consider the matter closed.”
She added that while young athletes should be able to know the difference between truth and fiction, “So should adults,” and that the matter would be handled internally.
FOX Sports college football writer Bruce Feldman tweeted a few minutes later that he had spoken to James Franklin on the phone and Franklin said, “separate quotes were taken out of context” and that he “never accused Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State of negative recruiting.”
Franklin told Feldman, “All I said was that every kid that we’re recruiting is also being recruited by Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame and that they don’t have the same challenges that we have now.
“Then, in a separate quote, I mentioned that right now we’re (dealing) with negative recruiting. It was two separate quotes, though, over a 35-minute interview. I never said that any of those schools are the ones doing the negative recruiting against us. They’re not. There is one other particular school, but I didn’t name who that was.”
Penn State Athletics said Franklin would not be available for further comment.