The Uthoff Saga: A Lesson in Communications 101

bo_nebraskaTwo weeks ago it was about to be as boring a Wisconsin basketball off-season as you usually find, but things all changed when Jarrod Uthoff announced he would transfer from the program last Thursday.  Speculation, conjecture, and rumors ran rampant.  Fast forward to yesterday and the entire sports media universe was going nuts over Bo Ryan’s restrictions on Uthoff’s transfer.  

I mean if you are one of those Twitter folks, like we all are here at MadTown Badgers, I’m sure you thought your timeline was about to break with all the heat thrown Bo Ryan’s way.  You’d think the guy was the 2nd coming of the devil and a plain evil Grinch.  

If you were watching ESPN (which I ask you why?) then you’d have seen PTI slamming Bo Ryan (according to reports, since I don’t watch that channel myself outside of live sporting events) and sports writers with no knowledge of what’s really happening ready to roast Ryan over an open flame.

The problem with that?  It was based on only the news coming from Jarrod Uthoff’s conversations with the media and nothing from Bo Ryan or the Wisconsin basketball program, until today.

It also served the “instant gratification” sect in American socitiey.  You know, those unwilling to let a situation play itself out before judging what happens because they have to know every bit of information instantly and then make sure they give their 2 cents worth, the truth be damned.  Ya, those people.  

Look, I’m not going to sit here and say Bo was a saint in this situation because he wasn’t, but as we found out today, neither was Jarrod Uthoff.  How he handled telling Ryan of his wishes to transfer was flat out wrong.  Calling your coach while he’s on vacation to tell them you quit without any explanation or willingness to meet in person is just not how you go about these sorts of things. 

Neither is playing hardball by restricting Uthoff from schools that don’t make any sense like Iowa State and the entire ACC because you want to force a meeting with him to get a reason for his transfer. That’s exactly what Bo Ryan was attempting to do according to a great article by Michael DeCourcy of The Sporting News.

Both sides have points that are correct, but taking to the media to fight this one out only served to make the “national media” look more important and the parities involved look like a petty, bickering couple getting a divorce.  

Yes, we all make mistakes in life, but this situation is pure common sense in Communications 101.

Bo had a point in making sure he got a meeting with Uthoff to make sure he really was making this decision for the right reasons, especially with him being a huge part of Wisconsin’s future up until his transfer.  But instead of just coming out and saying “Look, I’m putting restrictions in place because I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to him about this situation and this is the only way I can,” from the very beginning he sat silent while Uthoff and his AAU coach took to the airwaves and print media to state his case for a full release.  

That’s also a case of Communications 101.  Get in front of the story or you run the risk of letting things get twisted in a way that doesn’t reflect the full spectrum of information or where the truth lies.

Uthoff’s point about wanting to go wherever he wants has a massive amount of validity to it and chances are had he told Bo his intentions in person he would’ve been granted the exact same release he got today.  Once again a case of Communications 101.  

Communications 101 will also teach us that typically the reaction and story around the nation will read something like this: “Bo Ryan and the Badgers Cave to Public Pressure” and will totally ignore the facts that the appeals process was already in motion as of LAST FRIDAY and would’ve played out this way regardless of public pressure or not. On that note, check out this good one from Brandon Rifkin which highlights a lot of what I believe and have been saying all day.

The one area that bothers me the most is the same media that ripped in to Bo Ryan, never bothering to notice that the process was playing out how it should before outcry by you, are now Taking Credit For The Outcome.  Surely you can’t be serious?  

If you seriously think you’re tweets and columns that Ryan and Barry Alvarez don’t participate in or read had any sway in the situation you’ve got one inflated ego (and that’s putting it lightly).  The chutzpah of this kind of thinking is beyond this writers comprehension.  

If you’re a sports writer stick to taking credit for breaking actual news and sharing factual information.  Your opinions on something you know very little about aren’t moving the needle of a 64 year old man that’s been doing things the right way his entire career.  Heck, this situation happens so rarely at Wisconsin that Ryan actually had to contact other coaches to find out how the process actually worked.  (He’s only had 1 other player transfer in his 11 years at Wisconsin)

Attacking a man that’s never been involved in a recruiting scandal, graduates his players, never broken a promise to a recruited player, and does things the old fashioned way just strikes me of total lack of journalistic ethics.

In the end both sides got exactly what they wanted: Ryan got his explanation from Uthoff and Uthoff got his release outside of the Big Ten.  I’m guessing that in two weeks time this situation isn’t even on the national media’s radar and will be relegated to the heap of rival fans trying to get in a cheap dig at some point during the year.  

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, as well as Publisher of Big Ten site