All anyone could talk about at the Big Ten Media Day was the ethical dilemma (or lack there of) that exists when recruiting players from sanction-riddled Penn State. Everyone had something to say on the matter, and with rumors swirling that eight Illini coaches made an appearance in Happy Valley just days after the ruling came down, head coach Tim Beckman became a target of ridicule.
No matter what the naysayers had to say, what Beckman did was perfectly legal under NCAA rules, and now it looks like it paid off. According to reports from Arizona high school sports reporter Richard Obert Ryan Nowicki, a 6-foot-5, 285-pound redshirt freshman, has told Illinois coaches that he will be leaving PSU and heading to Champaign for the fall. Though a 3-star player who might not have played at Penn State, he fills a much-needed hole for the Illini. Under the NCAA rules for PSU transfers, Nowicki will have immediate eligibility with the Illini.
Nowicki is from Illinois but grew up in Arizona. He was an all-state player at Cactus High School in Glendale and was ranked the No. 31 prep tackle by Rivals.com last year.
While many Big Ten coaches claimed they would have nothing to do with recruiting Penn State players, Beckman was one of the few who admitted to speaking with players about transferring to Illinois. Before taking any questions at the Media Day he let everyone know he had been to Happy Valley, but he hadn’t been on campus. Some have commented that the number of coaches was excessive, but there were two players on the Illini radar, both offensive and defensive. When addressing two completely different players, different coaches would have to be involved. No one seemed to care that USC brought a similar amount to campus when talking to Silas Redd, who has already agreed to transfer.
Regardless, Beckman’s aggressive approach pissed people off. Dick Vitale even stuck his basketball nose in the mix and said on Twitter: “The Way ILLINI went after PSU players -did not break any rules – but TOTALLY CLASSLESS – on campus = VULTURES – same conf = WOW NO RESPECT.”
Clearly Dickie V was rather pissed, even though it had nothing to do with his beloved Blue Devils or a sport he knows anything about. I see how it is a touchy subject, but many of these players are going to want to leave Penn State now that they have the option. If I played football for the Nittany Lions, I can see how jumping ship would be appealing. Are B1G coaches supposed to sit idly by and let other conferences swoop in and get these players that want to leave anyway?
I know that I always view these situations with Orange & Blue lenses, but I like that Beckman was aggressive – especially now that it has paid off. He followed the rules and according to him he did NOT go on campus. He let some players know that he was happy to listen if they wanted to talk, and guess what they wanted to talk. And now we’ve landed a great player who would’ve simply gone somewhere else. Better that Nowicki decides to come to the Illini rather than to a competitor.
Welcome Ryan Nowicki!