A story about Wisconsin redshirt freshman Jarrod Uthoff leaving the Wisconsin basketball program has today turned into a big national story because of the restrictions that coach Bo Ryan put on the list of schools Uthoff can transfer to.
During an interview with ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning, Ryan was painted as a sort of villain because the restricted list included not only the Big Ten, but the entire ACC as well, plus Marquette and Iowa State. The rationale behind that, according to Ryan, is that Wisconsin could possibly play any team in the ACC over the next few years because of the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
That sounds a little excessive. Like Bucky's 5th Quarter says, Wisconsin wouldn't look too silly if Uthoff scored a bunch of points against the Badgers in a non-conference game. It's not as though it was Ryan who kicked Uthoff out of Madison.
While talking with Mike and Mike, Ryan said that he made the list based on advice he got from fellow coaches regarding how to deal with a transferring athlete. The Wisconsin coach made it seem as though extensive lists like this are made every time an athlete wants to change schools. He also made it clear that if Uthoff really wanted to go to one of the schools on the list, he could appeal with school administration and he might get his way if he gives a good reason for leaving. According to Ryan, Uthoff didn't really give him one initially.
If an appeal can be made, then why make the list in the first place? Ryan didn't really give a clear answer, but I got the feeling that he did it because that's what other coaches had done. Now Ryan looks like a bad guy just for following protocol.
I'm not completely on Ryan's side about this. It made sense to go to other coaches for help in an unfamiliar situation, but he didn't have to follow their precedents without question. Sporting News writer and BTN analyst Mike DeCourcy says that Ryan deserves that Uthoff give him a reason for wanting to leave after just one redshirt season.
Sure, it would be nice if Uthoff had waited for Ryan to come back from vacation and had a nice sit-down chat about the decision, but is the student's reason for leaving the institution really important? If Uthoff wants to leave, Wisconsin should let him leave instead of entangling themselves further in this public relations mess.
I do agree with DeCourcy, however, on this point: Ryan is being unfairly treated by the media today when it is really the entire legion of NCAA coaches to blame for the lack of freedom of students to choose which school they transfer to. Forming a restricted list that includes every school that might be an opponent in the next two or three years seems extreme and very paranoid.
Are Ryan and company worried about some secret game plan that Uthoff might reveal to a possible ACC opponent two years down the line? Probably not. That's why we need to take a step back and look at why student athletes changing schools is being treated as if nuclear launch codes might end up in the wrong hands.