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Filibuster: Bo Ryan Reacts to Jarrod Uthoff’s Request for a Divorce

When I got out of the shower this morning, I heard some old geezer whining on ESPN Radio with Mike and Mike, and when I heard Mike Greenberg ask him to stay on through a break, I  assumed it was Bo Ryan, the Wisconsin basketball coach who was not allowing Jarrod Uthoff, a true freshman who redshirted this past season, to transfer. What I couldn’t understand is why Ryan would call up in the middle of a radio show he was being criticized on and offer up additional fodder. (Mike and Mike Interview.)

While Ryan clearly made his situation much worse, I was reminded of Darnell Autry wanting to leave Northwestern prior to the Wildcats’ miracle run to the Rose Bowl in 1995, a story that I read in Gary Barnett’s book High Hopes over ten years ago. Autry was even visiting Arizona State when Barnett called then-Sun Devils coach Bruce Synder and told him that Autry wouldn’t be given a release. The memory of that story struck me, so I serached for it and found a LA Times article (Link) from before the ’96 Rose Bowl about Autry’s literally playing Hamlet in the 1995 off-season. The difference between that situation and the Ryan/Uthoff was that, one, Autry’s debate stayed private, and two, we are listening to Ryan discuss the situation mid-divorce.

To be fair, Ryan should be angry at this point. Uthoff told him he was leaving while Ryan on vacation, and, with all that Wisconsin has invested in Uthoff’s development, Ryan has a right to expect a conversation with him. In many ways, Bo Ryan is like a spouse who has been asked for a divorce out of the blue; maybe didn’t even realize that Uthoff didn’t like it at Wisconsin. So he feels betrayed, but going on a popular national radio isn’t exactly keeping it “in house”.

The Divorcing Parties

But Ryan convinced Uthoff to come to Wisconsin. In his book A March to Madness, John Feinstein chronicled how Mike Krzyzewski did it: he flew back with each recruit after their on-campus visit to make sure they were the kind of player who fit in at Duke, a private, exclusive school which every urban high school basketball player might not be comfortable at. As much as Bo Ryan has to go out to seal Wisconsin, it’s no good if it is to someone who doesn’t want it. Granted, Uthoff may not have realized he didn’t want until he got to Wisconsin, but still, Ryan has to read every recruit and ask himself, will this guy gel on campus?

As for the transfer process itself, it needs to have some restrictions on it. Right now, Garrett Gilbert is taking a whooping 27 credit hours (nine more than I ever took a semester) to graduate from Texas and play this fall at SMU. College basketball is frustrating enough with its one-and-done, and now transfers? In my opinion, Doc Sadler was fired at Nebraska because players transferring (and other reasons here stated), and it’s always easier to keep an old customer than to recruit a new one. Ryan said that other NCAA coaches were supporting him in his efforts to restrict Uthoff’s transfer, and of course they would. Likely most have been in a similar situation, knowing that if the loose a good player already in the program, it could be big trouble

But where Ryan becomes petty is when he blocks Uthoff from transferring to Iowa State, a school that’s isn’t going to be playing Wisconsin in the next couple of years (and where a former Wisconsin Deputy Athletic Director, Jamie Pollard, serves as AD). When Ryan says, you can’t go to Iowa State, he’s basically saying, I’m so upset at you, I’m not even going to let you play in your home state. I’m making this personal.

This is the classic divide between older people and younger people. Hey, I’m the first to admit, young people can be cocky and brash to their elders, and I have been. But young people also have more options in this society then their elders did fifty years ago, and young people know their worth these days. They won’t put up with cranky old guys who are always whining about how much better stuff was forty years ago. The old guys may not like it, but look at Mark Zuckerburg-the guy had a great idea and drive, and he absolutely earned every penny of it. If they had the options we do now, who’s to say they wouldn’t have used all of them? (Being a young man in an old man’s church)

Then there’s the desperation of the rural northern program. While Madison is a great city, there aren’t a plethora of great basketball players who want to play there in the winter. Tom Izzo was willing to consider the Cleveland Cavaliers job because he was frustrated that, after six Final Fours and a National Title, he still had a hard time convincing top recruits to come to the alma mater of Magic Johnson in central Michigan. Consider how it must be for Ryan.

But what I come back to is the point in the Mike and Mike interview where Ryan ended up playing his own defense attorney, trying to muddle the issue after he couldn’t defend himself with the facts. After Mike Golic asked him when the list of schools Uthoff could transfer to was so restrictive, Ryan went on about how it is when a team practices together every day and how Greenberg couldn’t understand because he didn’t play the game. Just what happens in a messy divorce.

Paul Rhoads’ 10 Year Contract: It just means you’re Gullible

Since I follow Iowa State by the mere of having to go to Ames for work and suffer their bad sports talk radio, I thought it was high time to weigh in on Iowa State football now that Paul Rhoads has been given a contract extension. I find listening to Iowa sports talk radio excruciating; when it was possible the Big 12 would break up, the Des Moines media reacted in the same way Chris Rock says the other type of black people react when they hear that welfare is going to be taken away from them.

For the record, I was happy when Paul Rhoads got hired at Iowa State because Jamie Pollard was hiring “one of Iowa State’s” own, which meant to me, one Rhoads wouldn’t be very good, and two, Iowa State would end up keeping him a year too long.  Now, I’m sure many Cyclone fans would probably tell me I’m wrong. I’ll admit that Rhoads was a better coach then I thought at the time, but now that he’s armed with a ten year contract, I do think there’s an even greater chance that Rhoads will remain at Iowa State one year longer than he should, ALA Dan Hakwins at Colorado.

Rhoads inherited a team that had won a total of nine games in the previous three season, and no conference games the year before. His first year, he went 6-6, with one huge upset win on the road at a 10-4 Nebraska team (game I attended, to my chagrin),The next year, he went 5-7, but did beat a 5-7 Texas team on the road while the Longhorns were ranked.  Through his first two years, Rhoads was 3-4 in games decided by a touchdown, a stat he would improve to 5-1 this year.

This year was arguably Rhoads’ best year. Iowa State was an underdog 10 times, and more than half of those times were by more than a touchdown. Rhoads did a great job getting his team up in the spots were they had to win: first at home against in-state rival Iowa, Rhoads’ first victory against the Hawkeyes; then going on the road after that win and playing up against UConn on a short week; and finally, in the home finale against No. 2 Oklahoma State, the highest ranked team the Cyclones had ever beaten. In the first three games of the season, Rhoads had to overcome multiple turnovers, and then had to go with a freshmen quarterback late in the season. If Iowa State had the benefit of a Big 12 North schedule and an extra non-conference game, they could have gone 8-4.

So Rhoads finished three years at 18-20 after yesterday’s loss in the Pinstripes Bowl, and now he gets a ten year extension. Yes, he over-performed expectations against the talent he had, but say it Iowa State fans: loosing record, and you’re giving him a ten year contract. If you can’t smell the fish, you’ve got a clothespin on your noose.

Let me do this in vacuum: Rhoads is a great coach in the moment. The Youtube clips of his post-game speeches. Getting his team up when they played Texas Tech the week after they beat Oklahoma, and again against Oklahoma State the week right before the Cowboys played Oklahoma. Rhoads even said in his ESPN interview after the OSU game that he’d told his team about that very opportunity before the game. Rhoads, much like Rex Ryan, who is flamboyant, gets his players to play hard for him, and gives the media good quotes. Granted, that personality works better in college than in the NFL, but the potential for his act to wear thin is there. But there’s enough good with Paul Rhoads, so you definitely want to keep him since he’s selling out your stadium.

But here’s how I would have negotiated: I would have started at about $1.7 or $1.8 million in annual compensation, and been willing to work my way up to $2, perhaps $2.2 million. But there is absolutely no way I would give Rhoads more than eight years: I would have started at six, and hoped I could settle at seven. I would have even given him more money and bonuses, if it meant not giving him more years. The reason: Iowa State plays nine conference games, plus a tough non-conference game every year against Iowa. This year, Rhoads got most of the breaks to go his way, and he still went only .500. The question will be, if Iowa State goes 4-8 each of the next two years, will Rhoads still be able to sell out the stadium just because he grew up within twenty five miles of it?

There is a direct precedent that should worry Iowa State: Notre Dame quickly doled out a ten year contract to Charlie Weis after he’d been in South Bend two years. Two years later, they knew Weis was the wrong guy, but they had to wait him out another year because of the contract. And remember, they’re Notre Dame; they fill their stadium every Saturday.

Yes, Iowa State fan, you may end up getting snookered by this deal, but this may be the bright side: by locking Rhoads up for ten years, they wouldn’t have to add years to back end of the contract for a while. If Rhoads does end up going to a bowl game every other year, Iowa State may have him locked in at a bargain price for the next six or seven years.

But here’s what I wonder: did Iowa State look over at Iowa City and what Kirk Ferentz makes per year, and say, let’s get Paul Rhoads locked into a long term, low rate. Yes, the low rate is great, but even if you succeed, you’re just going to have overpay him again when he gets other offers.

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