Urban Meyer is changing the Big Ten. That much is indisputable.
How much change he can or will bring remains to be seen; remember, he’s really just getting started.
How Meyer, his ideas, his methods and said changes will be received going forward remains to be seen, maybe as soon as this week.
According to what Meyer said on Columbus radio on National Signing Day last week, he’s going to give his Big Ten cohorts a little talking-to when the league’s head coaches convene this week. It sounds like it will be a stern message.
Start recruiting better players.
“We do need to, as a conference need to keep pushing that envelope to be better,” Meyer said. “Our whole conversation (at the Big Ten coaches meeting) needs to be about, ‘How do we recruit?’ When you see 11 of the SEC teams are in the Top 25, that’s something that we need to improve.”
Meyer does not and has not come quietly. With his first Ohio State team bowl-banned, the Buckeyes still went 12-0. Working on a limited time frame, he recruited very well last year with a strong close that included flipping committed recruits from three different Big Ten rivals. This year’s Ohio State class was ranked the best nationally by Scout.com, and while Meyer watched the Ohio State basketball game on Sunday, he landed verbal commitments from three highly-regarded 2014 recruits.
He comes from the SEC. He knows the SEC, and that everybody — not just the Big Ten — is chasing the SEC. That chase does not wait and might not sleep, which is why he also said on National Signing Day that “there’s no time to waste.” He’s recruiting now, and he’ll be recruiting all the way through next year’s Signing Day.
“You’re going to hear stories about (how) it’s a feeding frenzy out there (in recruiting),” Meyer said. “It is. And sometimes you’ll hear people say, ‘You offer committed players.’ Let me make this real clear: Everybody does that. And it’s not wrong, OK?
“The young person has the right to go to any school he likes. If one school is better than the other, fits his personality. If something is going on illegally, that’s a whole different animal. (A) 17 or 18-year-old man has a right to go to any school he wants.”
Not only is he going after other Big Ten recruits if he thinks they can help his team, he’s choosing to make the whole SEC thing a priority, publicly. He’s certainly discussed it and Ohio State’s loftiest goals with recruits. He’s asking his Big Ten brethren to come along.
How will it be received?
As long as Meyer keeps winning and eventually wins the way he wants to at Ohio State, how he’s received won’t matter. But as he and the Buckeyes go along, and as he chases his third national title ring and a chance at stopping the streak of SEC dominance his Florida team started, he needs the Big Ten to be better. He needs quality wins and quality competition.
He knows the reputation of the Big Ten — maybe now more than ever, after serving one year in a TV analyst role and another coaching a team that played without postseason eligibility — and he knows that matters. He knows he’ll be recruiting players who hear Big Ten negativity from other schools recruiting them. He knows it’s time for the Big Ten to ditch the archaic rule barring November night games and put on the full-court promotional press the way he puts it on recruits.
Meyer can look at the Scout.com recruiting rankings like everyone else; in fact, he’s probably been looking for weeks, if not longer.
Ohio State and Michigan Nos. 1 and 2? That’s a good thing. Ten SEC Teams in the Top 25 vs. just three Big Ten teams? That’s not good.
The rich are getting richer, and that’s not going to move the needle. Maybe something got lost in translation, even a little bit, but here we have a coach saying that he’s going to tell other coaches that they need to start recruiting better.
Urban Legend? Urban Bully?
That’s for those other coaches to decide. How they plan to keep up with Meyer, or even knock him down a peg, is up to them too.
The Big Ten has some issues. National perception is one. Speed — directly tied to that national perception — is another. When it comes to going head to head with the SEC, the nation saw Alabama beat up Michigan in last season’s opener. And Alabama won the season’s last game, too, against a Notre Dame team that had defeated three Big Ten opponents.
The list goes on…
*When a Wisconsin program that’s been to three straight Rose Bowls loses its head coach to Arkansas, an SEC program in major turmoil, that’s a problem.
*Nebraska, a prized Big Ten commodity and participant in last December’s Big Ten title game, lost a Northeast Ohio recruit to Kentucky, a perennial SEC bottom-feeder.
*Penn State, another Big Ten flagship program and one that, through the years, has been able to recruit nationally, is facing three more years of scholarship limits and a postseason ban.
When Meyer officially came on board in late 2011, he got an SEC-type coaching staff budget and SEC-type recruiting budget with which to work. Other Big Ten teams are free to act accordingly, and if they’re going to keep pace with Ohio State they probably should. That he’s willing to share publicly that he’s going to tell other coaches that they need to recruit better players is interesting for a few reasons; chief among them is that it’s certainly different.
Meyer is different. And if the game at Ohio State and in the Big Ten are forever different, too, those other Big Ten coaches might be wise to follow his lead.