Update, 8:50 p.m.: Wisconsin has announced it will allow Jarrod Uthoff to transfer to any school outside the Big Ten, the Associated Press reported.
Original post: As a redshirt freshman this season, forward Jarrod Uthoff had little impact on the Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s NCAA tournament run.
But with all the fussing over his decision to transfer, you’d think he was the Badgers’ top returning star.
Uthoff said Wisconsin officials notified him that he is not permitted to contact a number of high-profile schools to discuss potential transfers — including the entire Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference. And while schools restrict their player’s transfer options every year, the unusually high number of restrictions put in place by Badgers Coach Bo Ryan has triggered a dispute over Uthoff’s future and the wide reach of an athletic department’s power.
Uthoff met with school officials Thursday morning and is scheduled to meet with athletic director Barry Alvarez in an effort to resolve the situation. A resolution is expected to come later in the day, according to ESPN’s Andy Katz.
“I just want to explore my options,” Uthoff told the Associated Press on Wednesday. A 6-8 forward, Uthoff was named “Mr. Basketball” in the state of Iowa in 2011.
As it happens, a decision that sounds vindictive and unwarranted may have begun with a mail mix-up.
According to an ESPN News report, Ryan said he was told Uthoff did not hand in his appeal. He later learned assistant athletic director Justin Doherty found an unstamped envelope in his mailbox. Meantime, Uthoff told the AP a friend dropped off the letter in Doherty’s office before the school’s deadline to submit an appeal.
“Apparently, he didn’t check his mailbox,” Uthoff said.
Uthoff’s former AAU coach Jamie Johnson told the AP Wednesday that Uthoff told Wisconsin he intends to transfer and submitted a list of approximately 25 schools — more than half of which were later blocked. Those schools included nearby Marquette and Iowa State.
According to NCAA rules, a player is allowed to transfer, but then must sit out for one year in most situations. Players are also required to obtain a “permission-to-contact” letter from the school to be sent to their potential new schools. After a player requests a transfer, a coach may deny permission and the athlete may then appeal, according to a student-athlete handbook posted on Wisconsin’s Web site.
In February, Maryland lifted transfer restrictions on quarterback Danny O’Brien who, ironically, will likely be Wisconsin’s starting quarterback this fall. In 2009, Miami quarterback Robert Marve was barred from transferring to 27 colleges before eventually signing with Purdue.
Ryan said Uthoff never met with him to discuss his decision to transfer and Ryan defended his position in a heated discussion on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” radio broadcast Thursday in which he repeatedly referenced the “process” involved in appealing the decision.
“A coach is totally out of the process once the transfer begins, and I’m totally fine with the transfer — if that’s in the person’s best interest,” Ryan said. “But he did not tell me. He did not meet with me. He never met with me.”
Ryan also cited a track record that includes few transfers, thus keeping him unfamiliar with the process.
“I don’t know how to deal with transfers like some other guys who do it a heck of a lot more often, so here’s what I did. I called some coaches and I said, ‘Guys, what do you do when a situation comes up like this?’ Every coach that I talked to said, ‘Coach, you block the conference, and then any schools — especially if you’re in a major conference — if there are schools around in a contiguous area, states that are close proximity.”
In an era in which coaches often fail to honor long-term contracts and remain free to explore and accept jobs at rival institutions, the treatment of student-athletes continues to draw ridicule.
“I guess I don’t understand how ADs can job-hop and coaches can job-hop... It seems like there’s a double standard out there,” said Johnson, a coach with the Iowa Barnstormers. “If you end up playing (against) him, just try to beat that team.”
Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel furthered that assessment Wednesday, writing:
The circumstances of Uthoff's decision to leave or Ryan's decision to ban are immaterial. This is about the hypocrisy of the NCAA and its millionaire coaches and administrators.
What’s your take? Should schools be able to restrict transfer destinations for their players? Should coaches face similar restrictions when they bolt for a new program? Is this really just more evidence of the hypocrisy in collegiate athletics?