CHICAGO - The whole Penn State saga was anything but the silent elephant in the back of the room that few wanted to acknowledge. The topic has actually taken up most of the chatter here in Chicago.
Between former Toledo and current Illinois coach Tim Beckman taking his staff to State College to meet with any players who could potentially transfer out of the Penn State program, current Penn State coach Bill O'Brien giving a curt response when asked about the status of tailback Silas Redd (who reportedly met Thursday with USC) and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany expressing more of his thoughts surrounding the fallout from the scandal and the NCAA and Big Ten sanctions, it was definitely a prevalent theme.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke said there were some consideration when it came to Penn State's current roster. While Michigan got a commitment from cornerback Reed Douglas - a former Penn State recruit - for the fall of 2013, Hoke said his staff doesn't plan to recruit current Penn State players.
"To be honest with you, we kind of made a decision - I'd be lying if I didn't say we didn't look at the roster to some degree - but we've kind of made a decision that we're going to stay and recruit the guys and keep our business our business," Hoke said.
Some coaches, such as Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, specifically said they would not reach out to Penn State's current players.
Purdue coach Danny Hope preceded his answer with a pregnant pause.
"The NCAA has established the rules and the guidelines," Hope said. "As long as we’re compliant, we’re going to exercise every option to strengthen our football team.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was succinct.
"I have a problem with that," Meyer said. "Just ... I have a problem with that."
Delany expected some integrity when it came to the situation that faced Penn State.
"We are trying to put an overlay on this that allows the athlete as much opportunity as the rules allow, that allows for collegial relationships between our schools to be done in the right way, " Delany said. "And also for the athletes and the coaches to interface, if that's what they want to do. But I think it should be focused. And if there's an opportunity there for a school and a player, that's great. If not, they should move on. That's my view."
O'Brien said none of his players, as of Thursday morning, had announced to him their intention to transfer, though ESPN reported that kicker Anthony Fera has contacted Texas about joining its program.
With numerous sanctions facing his program, O'Brien only has one game plan.
"The key is, number one, to keep this 2012 team together, which right now it is together," O'Brien said. "And we've got to continue to communicate with our players and that's what we're doing on a daily basis, minute to minute, we're communicating with these players. So that's number one. And then moving forward, you know, again, I've said this this morning and I've said this over the last couple of days. I've heard the talk that this is so bad and what are we going to do. I don't see it that way. I don't see it that way. I see it as an opportunity. I see it as a a little bit of adversity that we need to overcome."
And, in the fashion of Bill Belichick, his former boss with the New England Patriots, O'Brien had this to say about the NCAA and Big Ten sanctions:
"The sanctions are what they are."