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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Badgers coach stands by decision

Bo Ryan is a Philly guy who came to Wisconsin to coach basketball in 1976 and never left the state. He spent 15 seasons in Division III, became the Badgers’ coach at 53 and has won at an amazing rate.

He operates one of college basketball’s most admirable programs, and few among his peers are more widely respected.

All of that bought Bo Ryan nothing as he spent days getting trashed in the media cycle.

Perhaps you heard. Ryan has a player, Jarrod Uthoff, who after redshirting as a freshman decided to transfer. The coaching staff came up with a list of 25 schools where Uthoff couldn’t go, and when that information went public, Ryan went on the skewer.

Limit a transfer’s destinations when coaches can bolt their program for any job at any time?

Block an athlete whose team pours millions into a school’s athletic coffers, including a coach’s paycheck?

Universities are in the process of granting more freedoms to athletes, like the proposed annual stipend, not restricting them.

But restrictive is how Ryan’s action has been interpreted, and he sought to clarify his position with interviews on Thursday, including one with The Kansas City Star.

“We’ve become a whipping boy for this whole thing,” Ryan said. “But there’s a process that needs to be followed.”

That happened on Thursday afternoon. Uthoff went through an appeal process and was told that the restriction included only Big Ten schools. And even that isn’t a complete road block. Like the Big 12, a Big Ten athlete can transfer within a conference but would lose a year of eligibility.

Lack of playing time, change in a system or coach are the most common reason for a transfer, although Ryan knows that only through hearsay. He’s only had one other player transfer from his program in 11 seasons at Madison.

But transfers are happening with much greater frequency around here, and schools are taking full advantage of some loopholes, essentially landing free agents in the open market.

Missouri’s basketball fortunes zoomed with last week’s announcement that center Alex Oriakhi was leaving Connecticut for Missouri. This was a “free” transfer, meaning Oriakhi could move on without sitting out a year under NCAA rules because the Huskies are ineligible to play in next season’s NCAA Tournament because of academic deficiencies.

Oriakhi is set to become the Tigers’ fourth Division I transfer on next season’s squad.

Iowa State, a school listed on Wisconsin’s verboten list along with the entire Big Ten, ACC, Marquette and Florida, has become one of the nation’s top second-chance programs. Four Division I transfers helped the Cyclones reach the NCAA Tournament round of 32. Iowa State adds two more next season.

The Kansas football team has swung open its doors to six Division I transfers, including three from Notre Dame who were recruited by current Jayhawks and former Irish coach Charlie Weis.

All of them, including quarterback Dayne Crist, can play immediately because they completed their undergraduate work in South Bend and have one year of eligibility remaining.
Ironically, no big-time college in America benefited more from a transfer last year than, you guessed it, Wisconsin.

The Badgers rolled to a Big Ten football championship this season behind the steady hand of quarterback Russell Wilson, who had already earned his undergraduate degree at North Carolina State.

Wilson represented Wisconsin well, and was upfront about his reasons for transferring. Yes, Wisconsin had a degree program not offered at his original school, which NCAA rules stipulate as a transfer condition. The coach at N.C. State also wanted a full-measure football devotion from Wilson, an aspiring baseball player. Wilson, undergraduate degree in hand, transferred.

Ryan also sought an answer. He spent the previous day talking to many colleagues about how to handle this situation. Ryan said the response was unanimous, that he wasn’t being unfair in asking for an answer.

Even a coach who leaves a program communicates with his players; at least the stand-up ones do.

“Nobody was trying to hurt anybody here,” Ryan said. “That’s what people should know.”

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