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There's nothing illegal about the college football vultures converging on Penn State scavenging for players.
But it sure feels like one of those big-time sports “culture” problems the NCAA allegedly wants to fix.
As soon as the NCAA hammered Penn State over the Jerry Sandusky crime and apparent cover-up and allowed current players to transfer immediately, we knew schools would jump in. This is a rarity: Having the chance to pick up an experienced college player and plug him right onto a roster.
Still, the idea that coaches would sit in a parking lot, waiting for Penn State players to exit a meeting with their current coach is unseemly at best. Penn State coach Bill O'Brien told reporters Wednesday that some of his players have received 50 scholarship offers to play for opposing teams this fall.
One of the team's biggest stars, running back Silas Redd, is being wooed by USC. Yet it's not just far away powers trying to feast on Penn State. Big Ten assistant coaches, such as Illinois, are in Happy Valley looking for help.
“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 said during a day at ESPN's complex.
Interested schools must contact Penn State with their intention to recruit players, but they don't have to talk to the Penn State football staff. O'Brien said a handful of coaches, including Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, have called and spoken to him out of professional courtesy.
Most have just relied on their schools to call or fax Penn State and took off on a recruiting trip that resembles professional free agency.
What's the alternative to this feeding frenzy? I'm not sure there is a viable one. Phone calls would be more discreet, but easier to avoid. Once the NCAA allowed the players to jump college football's version of the Titanic, it was inevitable that other schools would throw out the life rafts.
It seems like there ought to be a more dignified recruiting approach. Then again, maybe dignified recruiting is an oxymoron. At least this isn't the weird sight of middle-aged coaches trying to sell their universities to 14-year-olds who haven't even been to high school.
I feel for O'Brien. He knew some of the challenges he was up against when he took the job, but he had no way to anticipate the damage that would be inflicted by the NCAA's punishment.
O'Brien did a nice job of selling why a player might be willing to stay at Penn State during a day spent talking with numerous ESPN outlets. Some of the reasons his players first chose Penn State remain intact: a big-time schedule, strong academics, etc.
No bowl games for four years? That's a tough one, but O'Brien argues – and I'm paraphrasing – the most bowl games are relatively irrelevant. If it's not the national-title game, how important is it?
Penn State is already trying to pursue a schedule that would include a late-season game in an enticing place, such as Hawaii, that would make up for the lack of a bowl game.
As for NFL aspirations, it's been proved that regular-season games, along with the NFL Combine and personal workouts, are more than enough to satisfy scouts before the draft. No player's career has hinged on whether he played in a bowl game.
Playing in a bowl game can't hurt, however, and that's what most schools can promise as they try to raid Penn State. There's prestige with a bowl game that Penn State can't match during its barren next four years.
There's little question O'Brien will be swimming against the tide. He'll have to operate his program with significantly fewer scholarship players.
And the numbers will roll down rapidly as long as the vultures in the parking lot are still around.
Interesting culture, isn't it?