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Urban Meyer, Gene Smith fire back at critics of OSU football recruiting

Chelsea Castle / Managing editor for content

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Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer and OSU’s associate vice president and athletic director Gene Smith fired back Friday at in-conference criticism of the Buckeyes’ recruiting tactics.

Meyer put the finishing touches his first OSU recruiting class Wednesday — a class rated No. 4 in the nation by Rivals.com. Several of the recruits that signed to play for Meyer had previously committed to other Big Ten teams, prompting criticism from Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema and Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.

Both Meyer and Smith defended the recruiting practices employed while assembling the Buckeyes’ newest class.

During a National Signing Day press conference Wednesday, Bielema said that he thought Meyer’s staff had used illegal tactics to obtain recruits. Narduzzi spoke Monday of an unwritten agreement amongst Big Ten coaches, saying former OSU coach Jim Tressel and MSU coach Mark Dantonio would never call or talk to each other’s commitments.

“People coach Dantonio knows well don’t come in and take players away,” Narduzzi said according to the Canton Repository. “When you do, you lose friendships over that.”

In a Friday release, Smith condemned the use of the media to voice his concerns related to Big Ten football, though he did not specifically mention Bielema or Narduzzi.

“I am disappointed that negative references have been made about our football coaches, and particularly head coach Urban Meyer regarding recruiting,” Smith said in the release. “In our league appropriate protocol, if you have concerns, is to share those concerns with your Athletic Director (AD). Then your AD will make the determination on the appropriate communication from that point forward. The ADs in our league are professionals and communicate with each other extremely well. Urban Meyer and his staff have had a compliance conscience since they have arrived.”

The OSU athletic department also released a statement on Meyer’s behalf in which the Buckeyes’ $4 million-dollar-per-year coach said that his staff was in compliance with recruiting rules.

“I was pleased to take part in a productive, regularly scheduled meeting of the Big Ten Conference coaches today in Chicago. We had an opportunity to discuss a number of issues with each other and conference staff, including those that have arisen this week,” Meyer said in the release. “It should be noted that my coaching staff is in full compliance with our recruiting efforts, and no one on this staff did anything illegal or unethical. We will continue to comply with NCAA rules and recruit with relentless effort, especially the great state of Ohio.”

Big Ten spokesman Scott Chipman declined to comment to The Lantern regarding the Friday coaches meeting.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, who chaired the Big Ten coaches meeting, told ESPN.com Friday that the meeting was “nothing but great dialogue.”

“We understand what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable in recruiting,” Fitzgerald told ESPN.com. “We also talked about regardless of what’s been reported, we agreed there’s been no basis for accusing any coaches of illegal or unethical recruiting. There’s been no gentleman’s agreement inhibiting recruitment of verbally committed players, but we’re going to do all of our recruiting based on respect for each other.”

Meyer and the Buckeyes will pay visits to both MSU and Wisconsin during the 2012 season, on Sept. 29 in East Lansing, Mich., and Nov. 17 in Madison, Wis., respectively.

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