Jarrod Uthoff Saga Reveals the Absurdity of NCAA Basketball

Bo Ryan and Wisconsin University dropped the ball in their handling of the freshman transfer, writes Christopher Madden.

For years now, NCAA basketball has been basking in the light of their own tremendous success

The in-conference rivalries and the frenetic on-court action gives college basketball something the NBA lacks. Fans pack university arenas to watch the action live, and millions tune in every night from the comfort of their own homes to see their favorite college teams play.

Plus, college basketball actually gives fans a legitimate way to determine a champion at the end of the year as well.  Needless to say, college basketball is in no danger of losing popularity.  It is firmly planted in the minds of sports-addicted fans and has a permanent place in the habits of America at large. It also rakes in money hand over fist.

So when a situation like Jarrod Uthoff’s makes its way onto the airwaves and is discussed by the masses of talking heads out there, no one really believes it will have a big impact on college basketball.  Critics will bemoan the NCAA today, then go back to ranking their pre-season favorites tomorrow. Nothing will change, they say.

College basketball is like Robert De Niro’s Al Capone: untouchable.

Let’s be honest though. For several years now, there has been an undercurrent of pessimism surrounding college basketball. For most people those naysayers are barely audible. Yet they are there, and for legitimate reasons.

There are certain aspects of college basketball that should make you want to pull your hair out. Take for example the one-and-done rule. It’s simply a silly requirement. It makes no sense and it hurts both college and professional basketball. Will anyone change it? No, of course not. Next, consider the opinion of ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas. He believes the quality of play in college basketball has dipped significantly, particularly in the NCAA tournament. Players leaving early is a huge factor in this. As is the practice of including more and more teams, of lesser talent, into the tournament. Are there discussions to adjust these practices? No, of course not. The NCAA wants to add even more teams. Lastly, consider the NCAA’s continual efforts to remind us that when it comes to collegiate athletics, it’s all about the student athlete. Really? I haven’t heard anything that funny since I heard someone compare John Calipari to Dean Smith. If that were actually true, then the NCAA wouldn’t look anything like it does today. The sad fact is, it wouldn’t be nearly as popular either.  Uthoff’s absurd situation in Wisconsin is just the latest incident to give us a glimpse at the grimey and hypocritical underbelly of college basketball. To summarize: The red-shirt freshman decided that Madison was not the place for him. He phoned Bo Ryan, the Badgers coach, and informed him of his intent to transfer. Ryan’s face turned beet-red and smoke shot out of his ears. He then sat down and hatched a plan to get revenge on the kid.

Ok, those last two I just made up. But based on Ryan’s actions, doesn’t that description fit the bill? Actions do speak louder than words and Ryan’s actions scream “I’ll get you my little pretty, and your little basketball career too”. Apparently hell hath no fury than a college coach scorned. As fans across the country are slowly finding out, absurd NCAA policies and procedures are everywhere. Uthoff is the victim of the latest example. Not only does a college athlete have to sit out a full year when they decide to transfer (totally unfair) but their former coach can put together a list of programs that athlete cannot join (utterly ludicrous). In Uthoff’s case, Ryan’s list  featured every school on the planet. So much for the student athlete, huh? Ryan’s motivations for his actions were clearly bitterness and self-preservation. By eliminating any school that could ever have a chance of impacting Wisconsin’s success he made it clear that Uthoff’s needs, and the needs of other student athletes, don’t amount to a hill of beans.  The most important thing is his success; and the success of his program. If that means crushing one student athlete’s chances of success….so be it. The fact that Ryan and the Badgers eventually lifted their transfer restrictions, except for the Big 10, changes nothing. They did so simply because of the negative press inaction would generate. The matter becomes even more infuriating when you consider that Ryan could decide to leave Wisconsin today, hop on a plane and fly to any college in the country and be coaching on the sidelines tomorrow. Earning six or seven figures no less. Ryan and the NCAA , by allowing these insane rules to continue, have given fans perfect examples of the hypocrisy that exists in college basketball. The message is basically this: It’s all about the student athlete, until they piss off their coach and threaten the success of big-time programs. Then the student athlete is on their own. It is clearly not all about the student athlete. If it was there would be no such rules in existence. After all, if a non athlete attending Wisconsin decided to transfer to a different university would there be a penalty? Would they have to put their academic career on hold? Would a professor get to dictate what schools that student could enroll in? No, that would be absurd. So why do athletes get the raw deal? Because they generate millions of dollars and because the universities and they NCAA want to be able to control their investments.

I wouldn’t have a problem if the NCAA simply stopped the silly charade and started treating college basketball like the huge revenue generating business that it is. They should admit that it’s all about the cash and the athletes are really their employees.  I don’t care if you pay them or not, the fact that they are getting exposure and learning the skills that will help them succeed at the next level is payment enough. I would just like to see the dog-and-pony show end. Because when something like the Uthoff situation arises, it discredits not only Bo Ryan and Wisconsin University, but the entire world of college sports. If it is truly all about the student athlete, then prove it. Let Uthoff go where he wants. Let him play next season. Put an end to the Madness. Well, not in March though. I gotta have my bracket.

Christopher Madden writes for TheFanManifesto. Follow us on twitter.

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