I like Bo Ryan.
But Bo Ryan is being a pigheaded fool right now.
Current University of Wisconsin forward Jarrod Uthoff is seeking to transfer to a program that better suits his offensive needs. Fair enough.Ryan famously wins games by playing a slow-down game on offense and by suffocating teams into submission on defense.
It is a strategy that may bore some, but has been very effective, leading the Badgers to five Sweet Sixteen berths including their Elite Eight campaign of 2005. It certainly is a system that turns a lot of players off, but Ryan is able to coach up the kids that do buy in.
So the system isn’t for Jarrod Uthoff. That’s okay. Maybe there would be another place that would be better for him. After all, player’s scholarships can be revoked after one year; why should they be held in a perpetual indentured servitude in a place that you do not want to be at?
But unlike coaches who can get out of their multi-year contracts at the drop of a hat (and a well-heeled booster’s check to the coach’s former school in the form of a buyout), players are bound by their soon-to-former coaches restrictions.
As was expected, Ryan restricted Uthoff from transferring to another Big Ten school. That was expected, as was Ryan adding in-state rival Marquette to the list.
What was not expected was Ryan then adding the entire Atlantic Coast Conference to the places Uthoff was restricted from going to seek a basketball scholarship from.
“I just got an email about it today from Wisconsin’s compliance office,” Uthoff told the Metro Sports Report Monday evening. “I didn’t see it coming.”
Former Wisconsin assistant Tony Bennett, the son of former Badgers head coach Dick Bennett, wanted to contact Uthoff about playing at Virginia, where the younger Bennett now coaches.
Uthoff says he doesn’t know why Ryan has restricted so severely his choices. “You have a better guess than I do,” he said. “I’m not really sure.”
The time has come. Actually, let me amend that. The time is woefully past due for the time for college coaches to get off their high horses and do the right thing. To restrict players movements while not having that same restriction put upon them is ludicrous.
In so many ways, college athletes come to a particular school to play for a coach. What happens when that coach leaves for greener pastures with not so much as a proper goodbye.
The one-way street that intercollegiate athletics is nowadays gets more absurd by the minute. And while it is understandable that Ryan would not want to be hurt by a former player, sometimes in sports that just happens.
Rick Pitino coached against his former team in the Final Four earlier this month. Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban coach against the teams that they won national championships with every year in the SEC.
Former players play against their former teams. Former coaches coach against their former teams. This is not a new phenomenon in sports.
The silly fear that Uthoff would somehow hurt the Wisconsin program if he were to go to Virginia is like fearing the IRS is going to hunt you down for that one liberty you might have taken on your taxes. Sure, it might happen. But with all of the corporate shortcuts CEO’s try to get away with, the deduction for that new printer in your home office you might not always use for work is probably going to just go completely unnoticed.
So far, the Badgers have remained tight-lipped about the entire matter. After all, what could their possible defense be? While they are technically playing by the rules as they are written, they look nothing short of petty and small in restricting so severely the movement of a young man that they once thought highly enough of to offer him a coveted spot in their program.
But sometimes things don’t work out. And when they don’t, to be so afraid to allow that young man the opportunity to better himself only reflects poorly on the institution that is holding the kid back.
After all, where would the Badgers football program be if the ACC shut off Wisconsin as a destination for their quarterbacks?
If this is a case of Uthoff not being good enough to earn quality minutes in Madison, it makes even less sense that Ryan would try to restrict his movement. Any way you look at it, the appearance of the giant institution trying to trample the dreams of a kid that just wants to get on the court is out there for the whole world to see.
Remember, the NCAA is supposed to be at its core a student-athlete advocacy organization. And no matter what a rule book may say, to uphold and support Ryan’s actions defeats the notion that they have the best interests of the kids at heart. Their (in)actions only embolden the next school and coach who want to keep tight control over the labor that fills their arenas and sells their jerseys.
One way or another, Jarrod Uthoff is gone. To hold him back, while within the rules, is a morally and ethically bankrupt position for the University of Wisconsin to hold.
Let him go, Bo.