Thanks, Big Ten.
The bruised feelings and backbiting over recruiting last week confirmed my long-standing argument that it's nothing more than an image-obsessed, ethically convenient, regionally focused football conference. It exists in its own little parochial enclave, conning itself and its legions of apologists that it operates from a higher moral compass than other, more competitively dominating conferences.
The combative reaction to Urban Meyer's first Ohio State recruiting class exposed the Big Ten's double standards.
Every program pounces on what it perceives as another program's vulnerability. There always have been negative whispering campaigns along the Big Ten recruiting trail regarding a coach's health status or job security. One of the harsh realities of recruiting at this level is that tearing down your opponent is as important as building up yourself.
And fans who think their beloved Big Ten program doesn't practice such duplicity when it can effectively work for them is naively living in denial.
The Big Ten coaches publicly acknowledged following their regularly scheduled meeting in Chicago on Friday that there is no unwritten "gentleman's agreement" regarding the continued recruitment of oral commitments, but in the very next breath, they said they're striving for improved respect for one another during the recruiting process.
So it sounds like they replaced one unspoken obscurity with another.
The Big Ten coaches are afraid, but they can't admit it. They fear an infiltration of SEC standards -- like making national championships the goal rather than the exception -- by the Buckeyes putting a two-time national championship winner such as Meyer in charge of the Midwest's only true fertile football terrain, the talent-rich state of Ohio.
It's cute how Michigan State and Michigan will argue about which did better in Michigan. It's important that both do well in their own backyard, but ultimate success hinges on how well both fare in Ohio. And it should be clear now that Meyer will be more successful in keeping the local talent in the state than even his predecessor, Jim Tressel.
The coaches are afraid because the NCAA sanctions meant nothing to this Ohio State recruiting class. Losing a bowl game for one year isn't a deterrent for incoming freshmen who are primarily interested in one thing -- getting to the next level. And Meyer's track record of regularly producing NFL players at Florida supersedes the "shame" of being on NCAA probation as a habitual cheater.
The coaches are afraid that Meyer's ruthless, relentless approach will inspire their own fan bases into believing that perhaps their programs should demand a higher performance expectation than making conference championships and BCS at-large invitations the definition of a truly successful season.
The Big Ten has long gotten away with competitively committing itself halfway. Meyer just raised the stakes, making the rest of the conference very uncomfortable.