CHICAGO - Penn State coach Bill O'Brien says he doesn't anticipate losing the core of his team, despite the heavy sanctions the NCAA dropped on the Nittany Lions.
Joining his colleagues at Big Ten media day on Thursday, O'Brien said he and his players are ready to push hard against adversity. Penn State is facing plenty of that after the NCAA levied tough penalties on the program this week, all stemming from the school's handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
The sanctions will keep Penn State out of bowl games for four years and allow players to transfer without sitting out. Those who are going to make a move will likely do so soon. Training camp for all schools begins in early August.
Buzz has centered on the possible departure of Silas Redd, an incoming junior tailback who earned second-team All-Big Ten honors last season while rushing for 1,241 yards.
"The sanctions are what they are. It's time to get up and get going," O'Brien said. He added he didn't know of any player who is planning to transfer from Penn State. He also said didn't know which schools had visited State College to see if any of his players would be interested in leaving.
"I have no idea which schools were on campus, nor do I care," O'Brien said.
"I don't anticipate losing any core, key players."
O'Brien said the selling points of staying at Penn State were the world class education, playing in front of huge home crowds and learning the game from a coaching staff that could also help prepare them for the NFL.
Senior Nittany Lions linebacker Michael Mauti said the university community has rallied around the team.
"I know people are behind us, I know the whole school's behind us, the Penn State family," he said.
"I've had at least 50 emails, 100 text messages, phone calls from everybody, alumni, players who played here in the `60s, 70s, 90s and active guys on rosters in the NFL. The heads of departments -- psychology, education. There's no doubt in my mind that there's a huge, huge, support base for us and when I get messages like that I put them up in my locker room for everyone to see and together to know that we do have that kind of support."
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said Thursday that he has no plans to recruit the players at Penn State, suggesting it would violate what he calls a Big Ten coaching brotherhood.
Other members of the brotherhood weren't so sure about that.
"We're going to follow the rules and the rules allow you to recruit," said Purdue coach Danny Hope, who acknowledged contact between his staff and some PSU players. "For us not to compete would be a disadvantage for our football program. Whether anything materializes out of it, I don't know. If they're available, we're interested."
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said he had a "problem" with recruiting at Penn State.
"I don't know enough about the rules," he said. "If a player reaches out, says, `I want to leave here, I'm out of here, I'm gone,' and reaches out to someone, the player has a right to choose, especially by the rules, to go where he wants. To actively go get a player on a team, I'm not sure. ... I don't really understand the rule, I'm going to look into it."
Bielema has already decided.
"I made the decision as a head coach we would not reach out to any Penn State players," he 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."
He 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."
Illinois coaches were in State College, Pa., on Wednesday and other coaches have said they've been in contact with players. Preseason practice starts at Penn State on Aug. 6. At least 13 top players and as many as 30 affirmed their commitment to Penn State on Wednesday, including Mauti and senior quarterback Matt McGloin.
New Illinois coach Tim Beckman said coaches seeking Penn State players have nothing to apologize for. He said the Illini sent a list of names to Penn State before doing anything else.
"We're just following the rules of the NCAA," he said. "We were in State College but we did not go on campus. We went to establishments outside campus and called some individuals. If they wanted to come by, it was their opportunity to come by."
Bielema said he was impressed by the Penn State players who gathered to announce their decision to stay.
"I'm going to be their biggest fan for every week of the year for the guys that stay there and stick it through," he said. "My hat's off to the coach and all the players staying strong."
Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he glanced at
the Nittany Lions' roster but was not going after Nittany Lions players.