Penn State Football: Mauti Sends Blitz on NCAA as Team Throws First Punches Since Sanctions
CHICAGO — Mike Mauti and Mike Zordich spent hours in coach Bill O’Brien’s office earlier this week, often times deep into the night, because they were tired of the pounding their university and football program had taken.
“We’re getting kicked in the teeth out there,” Mauti told O’Brien.
The three bumped heads and decided the seniors should step outside the Lasch Football Building on Wednesday to issue a statement on behalf of all those pledging their commitment to Penn State.
Mauti and Zordich drafted the statement, finalized it Wednesday morning, whisked it off to PSU football media relations head Jeff Nelson to rubber stamp and were flanked by the 30 or so players who could arrive at Lasch within the 30-minute heads up they got.
It was the first punch Penn State threw back at an overwhelming wave of negativity that has swallowed the program like a tsunami. Thursday, Mauti again sounded off on the pounding his team has taken since the NCAA slapped significant sanctions on the program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, which include a four-year postseason ban and loss of 40 scholarships over the next four years.
“It’s about time because somebody’s gotta stand up for us and let the people know what’s going on here,” Mauti said.
“They don’t know us. They don’t know that we had nothing to do with it just like they didn’t have anything to do with it. I was watching ‘Barney’ when that happened, so how are you gonna tell me — you don’t know us. It’s not my job to sit here and not give my opinion on it. Obviously we’re upset.”
He held nothing back, referring to the NCAA’s ruling as “an absolute joke” that coaches can poach his teammates off the roster without any immediate limitations on the volume of access.
“If you’re a coach from another school,” Mauti said, “if you’re gonna sit here and wish our program well and then you’re gonna recruit and try to pull the legs out from underneath us and take our kids . . . then I got a problem with that.”
Mauti said some teammates receive 10-12 calls a day from opposing coaches. He himself fielded 40 calls gauging his interest in leaving Penn State, and he’s had to resort to not even answering his phone just to send them the message to back off.
He said coaches have waited outside the Lasch Building, apartments and classrooms for a chance to talk to players. Jordan Hill, the senior defensive tackle, drove around campus Wednesday after his off-campus internship to try and find coaches but didn’t see any.
“The fact that there's no rules, that door has been opened, you don't have to have ethics in this game,” Mauti said. “That’s the game [the NCAA] created. I can’t blame any coaches. They’re playing under the rules. They’re playing under the guidelines that have been set for them.”
Earlier Thursday, Illinois coach Tim Beckman said his coaching staff did not go on Penn State’s campus but was at various establishments in State College and called players to offer them the chance to stop by and discuss potential transfer options.
It was a divisive issue on Day 1 here at the conference’s media days. Some coaches, such as Purdue’s Danny Hope, made no qualms that he’s OK recruiting Penn State players because it’s within the rules established by the NCAA.
Others, such as Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, said their coaching staff made the decision not to seek out interest from Penn Staters.
So far, none of Penn State’s core talent has immediately decided to transfer, O’Brien said. The entire defense, Mauti said, decided it was all in since Monday.
The big name, of course, is Silas Redd, the junior tailback who traveled home this week to discuss his future with his family. ESPN reported he met with USC on Thursday and could make a final decision by the end of the weekend.
“I definitely see it’s killing him because he wants to make a decision,” said Hill, who rooms with Redd along with senior receiver Justin Brown. “He wants to make the best decision for himself and his family. The best thing was to get out of here, go home and meet with his family and really talk this thing over.”
Redd’s decision is the next significant shoe Penn State is waiting for to drop. From a football standpoint, losing him would mean losing the team’s best offensive weapon, a 1,200 yard rusher in 2011. Retaining him would send an equally powerful message, one first sent Wednesday on a practice field, concocted in the head coach’s office on the second floor of the Lasch Building in the middle of the night.