A controversy has erupted over the past few days around Wisconsin basketball – specifically, the way coach Bo Ryan is severely restricting the number of schools to which Jarrod Uthoff, a freshman who redshirted this past season, can transfer. There are many players like Uthoff, who decide a school just isn’t the right fit for them and want to go somewhere else.
And Ryan allowed him to transfer – but put many, many limitations on it. The rest of the Big Ten? Off limits. Marquette? Off limits. Iowa State? For some reason, off limits. Every school in the ACC? For reasons not quite clear to anyone but Ryan, off limits. There are also many coaches like Ryan, who’ve placed restrictions on players’ transfers. Ryan, though, took it to another level by blocking two dozen potential destinations for Uthoff – and it’s not like these were unrealistic options for him; he originally chose Wisconsin over many, many other scholarship offers.
And Ryan’s getting ripped pretty robustly for his conduct. It’s becoming obvious to more and more people that the NCAA’s transfer policy is stacked in favor of coaches – many of whom make seven figures and all of whom could take whatever other job they’re offered by whatever other school if they so choose – and against kids, and those people don’t like what they see – with good reason.
In fact, it seems like the only people who don’t have a problem with Ryan’s actions are fellow coaches. Take Dan Dakich, a current analyst and former coach who called those who disagree with Ryan’s conduct “bleeding hearts” and wondered if “anyone that actually coached college basketball” has a problem with Ryan. This, of course, sounded like a weak excuse, essentially boiling down to: well, everyone else does it, so it can’t be that bad. So when Ryan went on Mike & Mike this morning to try and give his side of the story, I actually thought to myself, “His reasoning better not be that everyone else does it.” His reasoning: everyone else does it.
Granted, that’s a brief snippet. Did Ryan say anything during the rest of the interview that made him look better in the public eye? Let’s take a look at a few reactions:
bo ryan is burying himself……live on radio. defensive, small, petty, and lost.
— Colin Cowherd (@ESPN_Colin) April 19, 2012
It’s going to take a lot for someone in sports to look as bad as Bo Ryan looks this morning.
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) April 19, 2012
fundamentally, this is about what the player owes the coach. dude, nobody owes you sh t.
— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) April 19, 2012
Bo Ryan is on Mike & Mike. It’s clear he is dangerously tone deaf. He had a chance to right this & miserably failed.
— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) April 19, 2012
Bo Ryan is snatching up NCAA hypocrisy and running with it full speed. His comments are foolish on Mike and Mike.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) April 19, 2012
So… yeah, this was pretty much an unmitigated disaster for Ryan. Maybe he deserves a little credit for addressing the controversy in a prominent public setting, but no more than a little. He calls it “unfair journalism” that he’s getting called out, but really, it’s not just about him getting called out – it’s about the system in place being unfair to college kids.
That’s the larger point here, and as long as the likes of Ryan keep speaking up for that system and acting like just because it’s the rule, that makes it okay, he and every other coach who places significant restrictions on player transfers – especially when they’re as significant as Ryan’s – they’re going to keep getting roasted. And as long as they keep missing the point of why they’re getting roasted, they should be.