Let me begin by saying that what Bo Ryan is doing at UW-Madison in regards to the transfer of Jarrod Uthoff is well within the legal rules and regulations governing NCAA scholarship athletes.
That doesn’t make it right though.
For those who haven’t heard, Wisconsin men’s basketball coach Bo Ryan is doing all he can to stop red-shirt freshman Jarrod Uthoff from transferring to another school, but he sure isn’t making it easy. Uthoff, a scholarship player and one-time “Mr. Basketball” in his home state of Iowa, has decided that after a year under Ryan, his style of play doesn’t work under Coach Ryan and he wants to go.
A transfer would strip a year of college eligibility from Uthoff, but being red-shirted his freshman year, he’d have three years left to play with his new school.
Meanwhile, Ryan has put together a list of schools he will not allow Uthoff to go to. NCAA rules allow for that, after all, a school is losing a scholarship athlete they spent the time and money recruiting the player, convincing his family your school was the right place for them and so on.
Mind you, I would understand if Bo Ryan said to the kid, “You can transfer, just not to another Big Ten school.” That’s understandable. Your school did all the work, and the last thing you want to see if another school in conference poach off of that.
But what Ryan’s doing — which he said in an interview on ESPNRadio’s Mike and Mike is not all that uncommon in big-time college sports — is barring the kid from playing on any team which might appear on Wisconsin’s schedule. So far on a list which was made public, Ryan barred transfers to all Big Ten schools (understandable) and Marquette (In-state rival…okay, fine).
Then it just gets strange.
Uthoff grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but since Iowa is a Big Ten schools, Ryan also barred Iowa State University — which plays in the conference formally known as the Big 12. He’s also barred Uthoff from going to Florida, in the Southeastern Conference or SEC (it just signed contract for a home and home series with Wisconsin), as well as the entire Atlantic Coastal Conference, or ACC, because any of that conference’s schools could play Wisconsin in future “ACC / Big Ten Challenges.”
Uthoff is set to meet today with UW Athletics Department officials to deal with an appeal of Ryan’s conditions of the transfer.
What exactly is Bo Ryan so afraid of with this kid? I have no idea.
While this sort of thing happens more often then we care to admit, it’s the Wisconisin — Uthoff case which has elevated it to national prominence. Such so, that turn on a national sports / talk show over the last two days and you’ll hear Bo Ryan getting crucified.
Part of the reason Ryan’s getting creamed is his attitude about it. He’s never been good with dealing with a hostile media and it’s showing in spades these past few days.
Secondly — and most importantly — the Wisconsin — Uthoff case is being used by people (myself included) who think the NCAA is a broken, money-grubbing, hypocritical, and unfair organization when it comes to its treatment of student-athletes. For many big-time sports programs, the athletes who play the games are nothing more than replaceable cogs to the money machine in which the players will never receive a dime from.
Then to add insult to injure, if they take a dime from anything, they’re ruled ineligible. Meanwhile, the school is cashing checks from television and apparel deals worth millions. In the case of the Big Ten schools, the Big Ten Network has the potential to make that amount billions.
As for the coaches themselves, the system is set up to benefit them for success, but punish a recruit who wants to follow the very coach they know and trust to their next gig. Say if Oregon, Wisconsin native and Virginia Commonwealth’s head coach Shaka Smart got the Illinois men’s job (was rumored, didn’t happen) and a number of his current players wanted to come with him. Chances are, VCU would block them all, and those they did allow would have to sit out a year of eligibility.
Meanwhile, Smart can probably cash a bigger pay check, enjoy a larger office, and have better recruitment amenities like the bigger arena and so on to further his career.
Now, I don’t begrudge the coaches or the schools for the system they’re exploiting. It’s how they treat their players (who are unpaid and there to get an education — in theory) like they’re their employees which needs to end. Bo Ryan is treating this kid’s scholarship like it’s a non-compete clause in an employee contract.
The simple reality is despite what all athletes do for the school money-wise, they are kids. And these kids are not employees.
The NCAA needs to remember that sometimes. That they’re dealing with kids most of the time and these kids are going to make dumb, selfish, and other such decisions like anyone else — but without the millions of dollars at stake. Because of that, they should change these insane rules and only allow a coach to forbid inter-conference transfers and not be able to hold a recruit who wants to leave hostage. They should also allow for kids to transfer without penalty if their coach leaves their school for a better job elsewhere.
As for everyone else, let the kid leave Madison. He clearly has designated he wants out and is only asking to go to where he wants to go to school, like any other college student. There’s no guarantee he’s even going to make the basketball team or get a scholarship at his new school for the time being.
As for Bo Ryan, do for yourself what you ask your players to do on the court, that you do what’s right and necessary to achieve the best outcome possible.
Oh, and that you finally man up.