The NCAA sanctions against Penn State included a provision allowing players to transfer away from the embattled program and play immediately rather than have to wait the usual one year. There’s no question this was the right thing to do on behalf of the players, who were not responsible for what went down at that school and should not have their careers interrupted. But from the other side, it opened up a huge ethical debate. Would teams wish to pursue Penn State players knowing the horrible circumstances behind their release, or would they feel uncomfortable taking advantage of such a sorrowful turn of events to build their program?
Everyone has to answer that for themselves. Bret Bielema for one has already made up his mind. The Wisconsin Badgers will not pursue Penn State defectors.
“I made the decision as a head coach we would not reach out to any Penn State players,” Bielema said. “I think one of the things that I’ve loved and appreciated about being in this conference is there is a genuine respect for everybody in our league that you are a Big Ten brother and … we’re a group of coaches that have a network that’s beyond anybody’s expectations and helping us in recruiting.”
Bielema added, “And it wasn’t anything more than I have a group of 105 players that are reporting on Aug. 5 that I want them to understand and believe that I think they can help us win another championship. And to bring someone in at this point so close to the season, I just wasn’t comfortable with it.”
It appears Bielema wasn’t so much concerned with the larger ethical question of whether it would be right to take advantage of a situation so horrific as what went down at Penn State merely to help win football games. He’s talking about the Big 10 “brotherhood” – Urban Meyer probably snickers at that – and his relationship with his own players. Either way, you won’t see any Penn State transfers popping up in Madison this year. Probably the right call, all things considered.