Bo Ryan’s first public comments on Jarrod Uthoff only make himself look worse

Jeff Eisenberg

Even though Bo Ryan deserves credit for addressing the Jarrod Uthoff situation publicly for the first time Wednesday night, the Wisconsin coach probably didn't help himself by breaking his silence.

Instead of apologizing to the freshman forward for severely restricting which schools he can contact to pursue a transfer, Ryan attempted to justify his decision by insisting this is a common phenomenon across the nation.

"There are rules of a scholarship. I didn't make them up," Ryan told ESPN's Andy Katz. Ryan later added, "This is something that all coaches do. I didn't make the rules. I'm just following them."

Scholarships do indeed come with a set of rules, but nowhere among them are coaches compelled not to release a transfer to 26 schools. Ryan, clearly angry at Uthoff's sudden and unexpected decision to transfer last week, banned the Iowa native from contacting Iowa State, Marquette, Florida and every school in the Big Ten or ACC.

Had Ryan merely barred Uthoff from reaching out to rival Marquette and other Big Ten schools, it wouldn't have been a magnanimous decision, but it also wouldn't have created a media firestorm. Instead, he crossed the line between protecting his program's interest and trying to restrict the opportunities available to a player out of spite.

The fact that Ryan attempts to justify not releasing Uthoff to the entire ACC because of a 1-in-12 chance of playing that team once a year in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge? That's remarkably petty. Same goes for Iowa State, which isn't even on Wisconsin's schedule in the future and also happens to be the only power-conference team in Uthoff's home state that's not a member of the Big Ten.

In a contentious follow-up interview on ESPN's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" on Thursday, Ryan again emphasized this happens at "300 and something" schools across the nation, a point which is overstated and still doesn't justify the practice. Then he played the victim card, accusing the media of going after Wisconsin but not other schools who do the same.

"After years and years and decades of coaches doing this same thing way before me and coaches who have had larger lists, you're not going after them, you're not making a big deal of other situations," Ryan said. "It has become an attack on a particular institution when over the years, 300 and something institutions have done the same thing. All I'm asking is for fairness."

If Uthoff was listening to the interview at home, his former coach requesting "fairness" probably inspired a chuckle or two.

As a result of Ryan's restrictions on him, the only school Uthoff is interested in that has a scholarship available and permission to speak with him is Creighton. Jamie Johnson, Uthoff's former AAU coach, said the freshman intends to visit Creighton sometime in the next week, but he is also appealing Wisconsin's restrictions in hopes of opening other options for himself.

Hopefully Uthoff either wins his appeal or finds that Creighton is an ideal fit for him. Otherwise, he may be low on options because despite intense media pressure, it doesn't sound like Ryan is budging.