CHAMPAIGN — Heading into the first week of the Big Ten Conference football season, Illinois coach Tim Beckman was learning how to tap dance. Beckman said he had no regrets about the all-out assault on Penn State’s roster in late July in wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal.
CHAMPAIGN — Heading into the first week of the Big Ten Conference football season, Illinois coach Tim Beckman was learning how to tap dance.
Beckman said he had no regrets about the all-out assault on Penn State’s roster in late July, when eight Illini coaches flew to State College, Pa., to recruit any players who were interested in leaving after the NCAA hit the Nittany Lions with crippling sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual-abuse scandal.
But no matter how hard Beckman tries, the discussion hasn’t come to an end among Penn State coaches, players and media, even if the only player to transfer to Illinois was redshirt freshman Ryan Nowicki, a three-star tackle who is no better than third string on the Illini depth chart.
“This game is developed, I believe, for opportunity,’’ Beckman said Monday.
“When we had that opportunity to go out and ask young men to come to us and tell you that they would like an opportunity to speak to us, that’s what college football is about.
“I regret that it ended up being this talked about, but it did give a young man the opportunity to make his decision on what he wanted to do.’’
It’s still a touchy subject in central Pennsylvania before Illinois (2-2) hosts Penn State (2-2) in the conference opener for both teams Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN).
Beckman said he spoke with Penn State coach Bill O’Brien during the Big Ten meetings in Chicago later in July but wasn’t clear if everything was resolved.
“I hope so,’’ Beckman said, “but this game is about the players and about playing on the field.’’
O’Brien won’t be available until his weekly press conference today. When asked during the Big Ten media days in July, he was short, tense and grinding his teeth while answering questions about Illinois’ recruiting swing. During the same Big Ten media event two months ago, Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti wasn’t afraid to give his opinion.
“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.
Not surprisngly, Penn State won’t let Mauti talk to the media before the game.
Tune into Recruiting Nation on ESPNU from 4-5 p.m. Thursday to learn the future of point guard Demetrius Jackson.
Jackson has become a key Illini recruiting target in the first months under coach John Groce, who wants to upgrade Illini ballhandling and athleticism. A 6-foot-1 senior at Mishawaka (Ind.) Marian High School, Jackson will announce his decision with Illinois and Notre Dame the finalists.
Jackson visited Illinois during Labor Day weekend, then made the short drive from his hometown to South Bend, Ind., for an official campus recruiting visit at Notre Dame last weekend.
Illinois salvaged a split in the opening weekend of conference play with a five-set win over Wisconsin on Sunday after a three-set loss to No. 12 Minnesota on Friday. The Illini (7-5, 1-1), who fell one spot to No. 21 in the national rankings Monday, head off for a road swing to Indiana on Friday and No. 13 Purdue on Saturday.
Cha-ching. Former Illini star Luke Guthrie won for the second consecutive week on the Web.com Tour, a PGA developmental circuit. The Quincy native fired a 6-under-66 to win by one stroke at the WNB Golf Classic in Midland, Texas, to earn $99,000. In seven tournaments, Guthrie has six top-10 finishes and earned $382,463 to lead the Web.com money list.
By the way, he also earned $284,672 in three starts on the PGA Tour. Guthrie already has a PGA Tour card to start next season.
Meanwhile, his former Illini teammates won the D.A. Weibring Intercollegiate in Normal by 21 strokes Sunday for their second tournament title in two attempts.
John Supinie can be reached at 217-377-1977 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSupinie.