By Adam Hoge-
CHICAGO (CBS) Plenty of critics surfaced in the wake of Illinois head coach Tim Beckman admitting he is openly recruiting Penn State players.
But no one has been as critical as PSU senior linebacker Michael Mauti.
“I don’t want to make a feuding thing, but at the same time, if you’re from our conference and you’re going to try to steal our players and wish us well, then I have a serious problem with that,” Mauti said Friday at Big Ten Media Days.
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Beckman admitted he had eight assistant coaches in State College Wednesday and has defended his actions by saying he is operating well within the NCAA rules. He also did not put those coaches directly on campus. Instead, they set up camp at a nearby restaurant.
“We’ve got 80 scholarship football players right now,” Beckman said. “We’re under (the limit by) five. I wanted to do what was best for our student-athletes and our football team and again, no one told me no. We did what we felt we were able to do. That’s what we did. We didn’t go on their campus. And we’ve really followed up with the guys that have been in contact.”
Mauti sees the situation differently though.
“They weren’t hounding me personally, but I know for a fact that they reached out to our players,” the linebacker said about the Illinois coaching staff. “And I know for a fact that they were in and around our football area. I mean, if they are in State College, they want our players and they are reaching out to our players.”
The majority of Big Ten coaches have said they are not recruiting Penn State players, but Beckman believes he is being “respectful” to the players who want the opportunity to leave the program.
“That’s not an opportunity,” Mauti said. “That’s not helping anyone. That’s not helping us. I mean we didn’t want to be in this situation.”
The linebacker said he only believes two or three players on the entire team are seriously considering leaving the team. PSU head coach Bill O’Brien said he believes all but a couple core players will return.
“It’s tough,” Beckman said when told about Mauti’s comments. “For the student-athletes, again, I’m just going to commit and say that we didn’t do anything that were told that we weren’t supposed to do. I was trying to do what was best for our program at that time. I believe in the student athletes and we also have student-athletes at our program that want to win too and I was just trying to make sure that I was giving everyone fair opportunity to do what was best for them and for them to make a decision.”
To be fair, while Mauti isn’t happy with Beckman’s tactics, he realizes the Illinois head coach is operating within the NCAA guidelines.
“Don’t get me wrong, he’s not breaking any rules. Because there are no rules here. There are no rules,” he said. “It’s been set up for a our team to fall apart piece-by-piece and guys go wherever they want because that door’s open.”
And that may explain why Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany doesn’t want his coaches going after Penn State players. He said Thursday that if it were up to him, they wouldn’t be allowed to recruit the PSU student-athletes.
So is Beckman upsetting the commissioner?
“Well, Jim was candid and said what he felt and I respect him. Jim Delany is the best commissioner there is,” Beckman said. “I’m new to this. I just hope that this situation doesn’t create more than what it was. We were just doing what we were told that we were capable of doing and no one ever told us not to do it.”
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.