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Sour Grapes or Making a Point?

It seems Michigan fans are in a bit of a tizzy over comments Joe made in his presser yesterday about Michigan quarterback Chad Henne. Here is the comment drawing their ire.

We tried to recruit him and, in fact, he had committed to us verbally and then he changed his mind, which he certainly was entitled to.

Stadium and Main has the following to say.

Don't get me wrong - maybe Henne did privately commit to Penn State. Maybe he sat in Paterno's office and told him, or called him up one day during the summer. But why bring this up, JoePa? I follow recruiting like a mad man, and I can assure you that Henne never publicly announced any intentions to go to Penn State. So what good can possibly come out of a comment like this? Does Paterno like taking cheap shots at Henne? Are the grapes really that sour?

Now, to be fair to JoePa, here is the entire Q&A exchange.

Can you talk a little bit more about Chad Henne's development (Michigan's quarterback) and has he turned into the type of quarterback you thought he would be when you were looking at him in high school?

We tried to recruit him and, in fact, he had committed to us verbally and then he changed his mind, which he certainly was entitled to. There were some people in the Big Ten who felt that maybe we at Penn State, a couple of kids had maybe made up their mind and then changed their mind. I can't point fingers, but he certainly was a heck of a high school football player and I think he has developed well. When you go into a program like Michigan's and play as a true freshman and do as well as he has done. I know he has had some critics there last year, but I am not sure where that criticism comes from because I looked at him last year as well as this year and he is a very intelligent, good athlete who is the kind of quarterback that can take a football team and carry it and he is doing that. I think he is an excellent quarterback.

It sounds to me like he is paying the kid a compliment. I think by pointing out that they tried to recruit Henne speaks to how highly they thought of him. And while it may not sit well with Michigan fans the fact is that Henne did privately tell the coaches he wanted to play for Penn State. He allowed the coaches to go for months thinking they had the QB position locked up and stopped recruiting other kids. Then when he decided to change his mind, he didn't have the courtesy to pick up a phone and call Joe or Jay Paterno to tell them in person. They found out about his decision through his press conference. Ok, he was an 18 year old kid, but does that mean he gets a free pass? Just because he went back on a private promise instead of a public one doesn't make it any better. Should the people he let down in the high stakes game of college football just forget about it? I think Joe, always the teacher, is using the press to teach a young man a valuable lesson about loyalty, respect, and living up to your commitments.

Brian at Mgoblog has the following to say.

This is especially rich because Penn State's current starting quarterback ditched Pitt on Signing Day and PSU has been relentlessly recruiting players publicly committed to other schools for a few years now. Something like eight players in Penn State's most recent recruiting class verbally committed to somewhere else at one time or another. Penn State's recruiting ethics are amongst the worst in the country and yet their addled old coach keeps taking shots at other schools.

You stole Pitt's quarterback so don't complain about us stealing yours. Well, maybe if Michigan hadn't stole our quarterback Morelli would have gone to Pitt. Or maybe not. There is some history there that suggests Pitt may have shot themselves in the foot on that one. But regardless, had Morelli gone to Pitt it's unlikely he would be starting in front of Tyler Palko at this point. So one has to say he made a pretty good decision there, just as Henne made a good decision with Michigan where he had an opportunity to be a four year starter.

It's true that Penn State managed to land some big recruits that had verballed elsewhere. But in several of those cases coaching changes made those kids rethink their decisions. In the case of Pat Devlin, he had committed to Miami to play QB, but after Miami struggled at the end of the year and got blown out in their bowl game, they fired some of their coaching staff including the QB coach that recruited him. Looking at the Miami program now it's hard for one to argue he made the wrong decision. Virginia was another example. Major coaching changes to the Virginia program scared off a few kids.

The fact of the matter is college football recruiting is a high stakes game where 18 year old kids hold all the chips. Sometimes they do stupid 18 year old things and don't fully think of the consequences. I don't think Joe holds a grudge against Henne for backing out of his handshake deal. It was his right and what Michigan did was perfectly legal. But I also don't think Joe is going to let him forget about it either. Pointing out Henne's character flaw is no different than pointing out a player that fumbles a lot. Coaches do it to motivate the player to get better. Football coaches are teachers. And it is their job to teach young boys how to be young men. Hopefully Chad got the message.