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June 30, 2010

As I’ve said many times, I don’t follow recruiting that closely. It’s expensive with recruiting site memberships for premium content and remains borderline creepy. And not just because it invovles obsessively following muscular teenage boys with the ardor of media portrayed teenage girls and Twilight.

When there is free content to pass along I do — hence why I probably have more recruiting tidbits with basketball than football — fewer available scholarships, fewer targets,etc. And, naturally, when there is a verbal I’ll offer up the info.

But for the most part, this is not a place that does a lot of traffic in or people come for recruiting rumors and buzz.

One other area I don’t bother with very much any more. Penn State and Joe Paterno. There isn’t much to say that I haven’t said previously. I don’t see the need to waste my time on them. Pitt and PSU aren’t going to be facing each other in football or basketball anytime soon. They likely will never be in the same conference. About the only place where there is competition is in football recruiting. A proxy battle at best, but one that does fire up the message boards.

There, preamble out of the way. Now to try and get to the meat.

Pitt has had a rather good month of June with recruiting. Not some sort of Texas recruiting to fill out the class in May, but better than simply solid. Culminating in the last couple days with a highly sought, top DT tackle out of New Jersey.

Marquise Wright, though, was really only the first Pitt commit that Penn State actively pursued as well. Penn State after a stellar recruiting year in 2010 only has 2 commits to this point.

Now the elephant in the room is Joe Paterno’s health. His age is relevant only insofar as it relates to his ability to heal.

Paterno has been ill. He has missed three rather significant alumni events in Pittsburgh, Hershey and Philadelphia. His own players have said that they haven’t seen much of him.

For most of the time, Penn State has been highly fuzzy on the reasons. Downplaying them and intimating that each one was unrelated and minor issues.

It is all about him just having a bad reaction to medicine or intestinal issues. Something, but nothing serious. Don’t ask too many questions.

“Coach Paterno has had intestinal issues this summer that have forced him to limit his efforts to team activities and therefore some of his personal appearances have been cancelled,” university president Graham Spanier said Monday night in an e-mail.

“We have no reason to be concerned about coach Paterno’s ability to lead the team.”

Penn State tight end Mark Wedderburn said recently that he hadn’t seen much of Paterno since May.

“I really haven’t seen him at all lately,” Wedderburn said.

The university recently sent out a statement saying that Paterno has been dealing with an “adverse reaction” to antibiotic treatment for dental work.

Paterno’s intestinal problems have limited his ability to travel and he has been forced to rest and take medication.

As Black Shoes Diaries observed, it isn’t hard to draw a correlation to Paterno’s health issues in the spring and summer and the slow recruiting.

Joe Paterno has been ill for a while.  We all know this.  His unavailability has resulted in many consequences — cancelling the “Evening With Joe” events across the state, renewed speculation about his health and ability to lead the program, and so on.  One drastically underreported problem is the effect his health could be having on recruiting.  Not because he doesn’t leave Happy Valley to visit recruits (nothing new there), but because he’s having difficulty meeting the local demands of the job.  Months ago, recruits were complaining that they were told written offers were forthcoming, but Penn State was lazy in actually following through on their promises.  Now, with “Evening With Joe” events being cancelled and newspapers asking Graham Spanier for quotes on Joe’s health, those recruiters who have been trying in vain for decades to use Paterno’s age and health against him finally have some factual support for their assertions.

It’s a good read. As they point out, Penn State has been losing recruiting battles this year all over and to many different programs.

No one has any doubt that everyone uses negative recruiting. Whether passively or aggressively. If a program is competing for a kid, no one should be surprised if somewhere, someone points out shortcomings of the program or coach — real or perceived. You don’t think rivals don’t at least mention the overall weakness and instability of the Big East? At least raise the question Coach Wannstedt’s ability to win the big games? Only the most delusional fan doesn’t think that their own coaches scrupulously avoid saying anything negative about a rival program.

This brings us to the PSU site and their publisher Phil Grosz. Apparently in a piece he wrote, the primary source of negative recruiting is Pitt. Unfortunately, it is behind a paywall so I don’t know all of what he wrote. But, Mike Vukovcan at KDKA-TV reprinted a nice chunk of it, so I’ll excerpt some of it here.

It now appears that Penn State’s recruiting competition, particularly Pitt, has seized on that opportunity to place doubt in players’ minds like Wright, DB/WR Brandon Phelps from Demascus (Md.) who committed to Virginia, and quite possibly Rivals250 members DE Shawn Oakman from Lansdowne (Pa.) Pennwood and CB Kyshoen Jarrett from East Stroudsburg (Pa.) South.

It seems Pitt in particular has been successful in placing doubt in prospects’ minds about Paterno’s health and has convinced a number of prospective recruits that both teams are recruiting that the Nittany Lions’ program is in a downward spiral.

Now keep in mind, he is claiming that Pitt poisoned the well for a Maryland prospect so that Virginia could nab him. He is only saying “quite possibly” for the other two since they haven’t committed and if they do choose PSU then clearly it failed. But if they commit elsewhere…

Grosz makes most of his money from having PSU subscribers. If recruiting is going poorly, and nothing is really happening, subscribers go down. Subscribers also go down when fans feel the program could be slipping or suffering. While PSU football isn’t, recruiting losses fuel that fear of fans that it is

Grosz’s piece also says that recruiting is like politics. Perhaps. So let’s take the analogy a little further.

Team oriented recruiting sites then are like party organizations. The most common and effective way to galvanize the base and raise funds by parties these days: fear.

Use an individual that many in the base already have a strong and long animosity as the bogeyman. Penn State isn’t getting some of its top targets. That is only because evil Pitt is saying mean things. You must keep paying and subscribing to stay on top of things.

Grosz is also setting things up so that any further recruiting failures are not Penn State’s fault. It is all negative recruiting against Penn State. Feeding the paranoia.

Is it really a surprise that the players havent seen much of Ol’Pa? He hasnt really been the head coach of that football team in years. His coaches calling the plays are in the booth and he wears no head phones….go figure. He is nothing more than a figurehead at this point, almost like a breathing statue that state penners get all warm and fuzzy over. The myth is greater than the reality. While he’s out collecting speaking fees, the assistants and coordinators are busy actually perparing and leading the team. Poor Tom Bradley, how many years now has he been waiting for Ol Joe to either get the boot or drop dead???? Hang in there Tom I can relate. I’ve been waiting for my old codger boss to leave for five years now, I can only imagine how you feel!

Comment by Coach Ditka 06.30.10 @ 3:51 pm

JoePa wants to raise taxes AND privatize social security!

Comment by Patrick 06.30.10 @ 5:05 pm

at least now the posters on Black Shoes Diaries have another excuse for losing a recruit to Pitt other than “PSU lost interest and wasn’t recruiting him anymore”

Comment by wbb 06.30.10 @ 8:22 pm

“It seems like Pitt in particular…” That’s it? That doesn’t sound like a source to me. That sounds more like a Penn State writer planting a rumor/excuse. Cory Geiger has pulled similar stunts in his Altoona Mirror sportswriting: making vague accusations of Pitt negative recruiting without having a single solid source… or at least, he couldn’t produce one when I called him on it in an e-mail I’ve saved ever since.

Give it up, Grosz. PSU is having a down year in recruiting. Deal with it. They had a great year last year. Besides, you don’t think that a single PSU coach mentioned the recent Big East Conference instability for some negative recruiting of their own?

But just for us old school Pitt fans, “PENN STATE SUCKS! PENN STATE SUCKS! P-E-N-N-S-T SUCKS!” I still hate Penn State, even if our younger fans understandably no longer care (WVU is a better rival, since they can play hoops too).

Comment by Lee in Altoona 06.30.10 @ 8:56 pm

I almost went there. Might have, except my acceptance was an IBM 80 column punch card.

No class way back then, even less now.

Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Steve 06.30.10 @ 9:55 pm

I almost went to Penn State too, but the Pitt admission’s staff told me a bunch of negative things about State College.

Comment by Jeff 06.30.10 @ 10:27 pm

I applied to Penn State and got my acceptance in less than 9 days. Just seemed desperate, so I went to Pitt.

Comment by Matthew 06.30.10 @ 10:55 pm

I went to Pitt instead of PSU because I wanted a real job once I graduated. PSU sucks and Joe Pa should have retired the day he shit his pants during a game. Someone once told me that people sometimes shit themselves when they die, so Joe’s already been dead for years.

Comment by dish 06.30.10 @ 11:11 pm

There’s a school east of Johnstown and West of Philadelphia?????? Huh, could have fooled me…

Comment by Marco 06.30.10 @ 11:15 pm

Phil Grosz piece is an insult to all recruits, as if they’re not intelligent enough to pay attention to the media in regards to the health of their prospective coaching staff.

Comment by shadyforpresident 07.01.10 @ 8:17 am

JoePa shit himself. Wow. That’s new material. He’s old and will die soon. Creative. Honestly, I don’t think anyone expected this year to be an exceptional recruiting class considering the number of schollies and the depth of talent that currently exists on Penn State’s roster. It’s not really attractive to a kid that wants to play right away. As Chas said, the BSD post is not a bad read never implicates Pitt solely as the perpetrator of negative recruiting tactics. And I’m sure that Penn state has engaged in just as much negative recruiting as any other school, so to imply that Grosz’s assessment is widely accepted by the Penn State fan base is quite a reach.

And Grosz’s piece is an insult to some recruits, but let’s face it. A lot of these kids are just that – kids. If they lack the proper direction from their families (or lack complete families, for that matter), do you honestly think they’re in a position to make a decision that could impact the rest of their life – not just football, but life after football. And then in walks a used car saleman like Rich Rodriguez or Urban Meyer or Pete Carrol.

As much as you may not want to hear it, there are a lot of parallels between Paterno and Wannstedt – especially, based on what I’ve read about his interest in preparing his players for life after football.

Comment by Spats 07.01.10 @ 9:04 am

Spats – I do not think there are too many parrallels between Paterno and Wannstedt. JoePa has become very removed from his players – you even here his players talking about it now. Wannstedt is very involved in the daily happenings of his players and is also a farily strict discipline man – which Penn State has not been. I’m not too sure Joe Pa can prepare his players for life after football if he rarely builds personal relationships and has become so far removed. Maybe he did 10 years ago, but not likely too much involvement now.

I dount Pitt coaches would specifically mention another program’s coach and age, but would rather mention that their program at Pitt has a coach who will be around for a while. Similar to recruiting new employees – you learn to focus of the benefits of your company/team instead of trashing the competition because you can lose a lot of respect if you trach the competition directly. This Grosz character obviously didn’t have any facts or sources and was just speculating. He must have a PSU degree in journalism.

Comment by dish 07.01.10 @ 10:19 am

To read threads like this, you’d think Joe Paterno invented polio and Jonas Salk cured it.

Comment by Jeff 07.01.10 @ 10:25 am

Penn State fan, and couldn’t agree more on Grosz trying to sell fear rather than facts. If things aren’t going well, sell a recruiting war between Pitt and Penn State that doesn’t exist. That’ll stoke the passions.

O, and you commenter folks are classy.

Comment by Bill 07.01.10 @ 10:52 am

I can’t help but notice the weasel words that Grosz uses when making his accusations. He never comes out and says that Pitt is doing this, only that “it seems” or “it appears” that Pitt “quite possibly” has been placing doubts in recruit’s minds.

Comment by KeithS 07.01.10 @ 11:09 am

I heard that Marquise Wright has no interest in being a poultry inspection major and examining eggs for fecal matter while playing football for PSU.

Comment by Chookie33 07.01.10 @ 12:23 pm

Please continue with your practice of rarely, if ever, writing about PSU. It never fails to makes me want to vomit. As for the recruiting and everything else, you’re all I’ve got out here in AZ. Thanks for doing the work.

Comment by Chris 07.01.10 @ 12:35 pm

As I noted in another thread, Pitt has been winning some big recruiting battles this year and over schools much better than State Penn. Kids are obviously paying attention to what the Pitt coaches are selling. Now if we could just actually win something meaningful!

By the way, Joe shitting himself may be old news but damn its still funny. Sprinting across the field (during the game mind you) with soiled drawers…a timeless classic

Comment by Coach Ditka 07.01.10 @ 1:46 pm

Pardon my language but f*** Paterno and Penn State! Too me, any school that gets the love from the media and hasnt won a true national title in 20 some years sucks. Hoestly if we could play em again I would love to beat them up their. We had them back in 1998 being 4 touchdown underdogs. I’d love to see what would happen now… You know we would be fired up to go their, like Pryor was from Ohio State last year. I’d also love to see Coach Dixion and company beat the snot out of them up there to…

Comment by Lou 07.01.10 @ 6:49 pm

You have to love the State Penn, they know how to stick it to their fans. I love the fact that they pay a premium for “seats with backs”. The article did quote a few long time season ticket holders that said the new donation policy and shitty non con schedule lead them to cancel their tickets. But never fear, there will still be 100,000 dopes that will pony up the bucks. They do have loyal fans, I will give them that. From the PG today:

“The new pricing guideline begins with a $100 contribution per year for each ticket, for seating primarily around the end zones. There are $400 and $600 seats from the 10-yard lines to the 50. For a much smaller section at midfield, there is a $2,000 charge for seats with backs.”

Read more: link to

Comment by Coach Ditka 07.02.10 @ 7:00 am

All I can say is recruits change THEIR (they must not teach the difference between “their” and “there” at Pitt, eh?) minds, so don’t close the book on that guy just yet.

Say what you want, but the best selling point PSU has is game day itself. Check out Happy Valley on gameday. We might be paying more for backs on our chairs, but at least we fill the place. I know, we’re all redneck farmers with nothing better to do, right?

Comment by Tom 07.02.10 @ 9:08 am

By the way, Paterno never wore a headset during his entire tenure. I guess he was never involved with his team by your standard. Is that the criteria for a good coach, wearing a headset?

Comment by Tom 07.02.10 @ 9:10 am

@ Dish – To think that any school/recruiter doesn’t emgage in some kind of negative recruiting is foolish. Pitt is just as guilty as anyone (which I’m sure includes Penn State). However, there are some programs that are far more egregious. My point was that these kids don’t always have the proper direction – at home, at school, etc. – which is why you see the circus with the team-hats lined up at a press conference. And it’s a shame because these kids are making decisions that will impact the rest of their lives, yet they’ve become pawns.

Regarding Paterno’s impact on the lives of players after football, just take a look at the number of academic all-americans during Paterno’s tenure. Look at the contributions to the school – not football or athletics related. Has his involvement waned as his health has deteriorated? Yeah, possibly, but that doesn’t mean that those coaches under him – many who played for him – aren’t singing from the same sheet music. My point in comparing the two coaches was meant as a complimet to Wannstedt. If he can demonstrate the longevity that Paterno has enjoyed while maintaining a focus on kids’ lives after football, then kudos to him.

And Lou, so a team that hasn’t won a “true national championship in 20 some years sucks”. Pray tell – where does that leave Pitt?

Comment by Spats 07.02.10 @ 9:43 am

Regarding Paterno’s impact on the lives of players after football, just take a look at the number of academic all-americans during Paterno’s tenure.

–Or just take a look at the sidelines during the Blue White game. Tons of former players return. Tambi Hali, a recent graduate, returns all the time to see Paterno. To say he isn’t involved in his players lives after football is just plain ignorant.

Comment by Tom 07.02.10 @ 10:16 am

I am not surprised to see some PSU fans show up and defend Weekend at Bernie’s.

Adding Penn State to the big 10 was just a way for Michigan and OSU to make greater inroads in recruiting Pennsylvania. Penn State was paid off to do it and cheerfully accepted the money. Sure, they have loyal fans. Good for them. The problem is that Paterno has stayed way too long and is an impediment to PSU now.

My grudge with Pater5no is that he won’t get over his grudge with Pitt.

Comment by Penguins Fan 07.03.10 @ 10:21 pm

If Paterno is an impediment to Penn State, seriously, where does that leave Pitt? What’s Pitt’s impediement? And if he is, in fact, an impediment and he hurts recruiting so badly, why do you want to see him go? I mean, based on your argument, that would be good for Pitt, in terms of recruiting – Right?

Comment by Spats 07.06.10 @ 12:45 pm

With the exception of the police blotter items, its fine with me if you don’t write about that other school.

I think most of the Paterno dissing is just a result of the rivalry. I come from a Pitt era where I hate state much more than WVU. But in fairness I believe JoPa has been a great coach, not only because of what he’s accomplished in the sport, but also because he was pretty good to his kids.

Things are different now than before at PSU. My guess is this has something to do with the character of college athletes today as opposed to 20-30 years ago, and also to JoPas waining influence as he ages.

My only problems with Paterno now are his dissembling when it comes to the Pitt-PSU game, and the fact that he blames Pitt for the death of the Eastern Conference (when, by all accounts I can find, it was PSUs backhandedness that resulted in Pitt rejecting the idea).

Comment by Spanky 07.09.10 @ 5:40 pm

[…] A few weeks ago, Penn State was spinning that Joe Paterno had missed significant alumni functions because of a bad reaction to some medicine. […]

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