Arizona handled Jeff Withey's transfer similarly to Bo Ryan's management of Jarrod Uthoff, and it turned out fine. Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE
Twitter was a flurry early Thursday after the national media caught wind that Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan put transfer blocks on freshman Jarrod Uthoff that resembled the Great Wall of China more than a good ol' Mississippi River bridge toll.
Ryan restricted Uthoff from transferring within the Big Ten and the ACC, in addition to Marquette, Florida and Iowa State. He stuttered and stammered his defense of the decision on ESPN's Mike & Mike radio show, and that did little to help his cause.
The Internet was angry that Ryan was trying to control a kid's life after Uthoff didn't want Ryan to be his coach anymore, and that's fair to a degree. Mike & Mike posed the argument that Ryan could similarly ditch the Badgers for another gig despite signing a contract. That's true as well.
Context, however, is key.
Ryan told Mike DeCourcy of Sports News that Uthoff just gave him a phone call saying he was gone, but he added on the radio show that he still didn't know why Uthoff had made the decision.
Here at Arizona, even under the Sean Miller regime, transfers are a yearly deal, and some of those transfer similarly can be used as evidence that what Bo Ryan is doing to Jarrod Uthoff is more responsible that it is cruel, despite it being what many prominent people might call outrageous.
Remember Jeff Withey, now of Kansas fame?In 2008, Withey was a Wildcat. But after Lute Olson suddenly was no longer the head coach, the freshman center decided that Arizona wasn't the place for him. Then-athletic director Jim Livengood initially blocked the transfer in what appeared as what we see today as a bitter, Bo Ryan-ish move.
Yet, I believe Ryan is taking a similar approach to Livengood in making sure that a transfer upheld at least part of his end of the deal.
"My very simple reason is I firmly believe, as the letter of intent states, that he needs to stay a full academic year," Livengood said to the Arizona Daily Star. "At the end of [the year] -- as I told him last night -- I would gladly release him if he wanted."
This is a two-way street, after all.
Many national columnists and right-minded, respectable writers out there were quick to jump on Bo Ryan in this one, but they're wrong to discount the fact that it's a player committing to coach and team when they leave high school.
Bo Ryan invested time in Jarrod Uthoff, too.
Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com even took the reach that Ryan might be grasping to keep Uthoff at Wisconsin, or perhaps is doing this just to get revenge on a player who didn't give his program another chance. Goodman believes that adding in an entire league, the ACC, on top of the current one as a no-no landing spot was a step too far.
But in the end, this isn't about trying to limit a kids' choice.
It's just a move to make a kid fulfill his letter of intent that he signed. Leaving is damaging enough since Ryan had the guy in his future plans, and Goodman points that out.
On the radio show, Ryan's most crucial comments came in admitting that Uthoff will appeal the restrictions on his transfer, and the appeal would likely be a successful one.
The least Jarrod Uthoff can do is finish his Wisconsin academic semester as to not hurt the Badgers anymore.
This season in Tucson, Josiah Turner wasn't restricted from where he'll end up, according to Goodman. That's because, behind closed doors, he and Miller talked and decided it was best he leave after finishing the school year. His place on the Wildcats' bench during the NIT was a sign that there was discussion, and at least a commitment on Turner's end to fulfill his end of the deal.
That's what Withey did at Arizona as well, and despite Livengood looking like a bad guy for blocking his transfer, it all worked out.
Look at Withey now.
Ryan probably could have handled the situation a lot better -- the radio show appearance was a bad idea. And couldn't he have just outright blocked the transfer to find out the reasoning instead of making it appear like he had a bigger agenda?
Still, he has a program to look out for.
Sometimes bureaucracy just makes it look dirtier than it is.