Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 4/19/12
MADISON, Wis. Two wrongs don't make a right. It's a simple phrase in the English language that contains complex applications in everyday life. But the basic premise is this: Don't try to rationalize your bad behavior by implying others behave badly, too. When one wrong is committed, another wrong doesn't cancel that out. The University of Wisconsin basketball program finds itself tangled in an unusually public quarrel this week, and coach Bo Ryan is at the center of the controversy. He is caught in a scenario in which the justification for his questionable motives is to point out that other coaches before him have done exactly the same thing. Here's the backstory. Jarrod Uthoff, a 6-foot-8, 200-pound freshman forward at Wisconsin, met with Ryan last Thursday to ask for a release from his scholarship so he could explore transfer options. Uthoff, who practiced but didn't play with the team last season, told Ryan he wanted to find a school that better fit his skill set. Rather than provide Uthoff an opportunity to find the best school, Ryan blocked him from contacting 26 programs nearly half of which were on Uthoff's initial wish list of schools to contact. The restrictions included all Big Ten programs, the entire Atlantic Coast Conference, Marquette, Florida and Iowa State. The rationale is that Ryan doesn't want Uthoff to play for a team that could face the Badgers in the coming seasons though it's unlikely Wisconsin will play several of the restricted schools. Wisconsin takes part annually in the Big TenACC Challenge, making every ACC team a possible opponent. Marquette plays Wisconsin every season as in-state rivals, and Florida recently was added for a home-and-home series. Iowa State has no ties to Wisconsin, but Uthoff is an Iowa native. Uthoff said when reached by phone Wednesday that he had no idea schools could even place restrictions on an intended transfer. And he was caught off-guard by the number of programs restricted. "Initially, I didn't really know," he said. "I didn't think they would place a restriction on it. Because it's not like I played in the Big Ten. I wasn't really sure what to think." The Uthoff saga has taken on a role in the national sports discourse that few expected. And the University of Wisconsin from the school president to the athletic department is being raked over the coals for its perceived unfair treatment of Uthoff. Ryan made some of his first public comments on the Uthoff situation Thursday on ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning." (FOXSportsWisconsin.com's request to speak to Ryan hasn't yet been granted.)On the air, he did not help his cause, sounding like a stubborn man going on the defensive and hiding behind a rule that eschews basic decency to a college student-athlete. "I'm a guy who 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," Ryan said. "You're not making a big deal of other situations." The underlying issue here is a sense of loyalty, even if Ryan didn't say as much. He is a fiercely loyal man to his friends and former players and doesn't like the idea of players not sharing similar loyalty to a program and a coach. Last season, Ryan lashed out at the graduate transfer rule in college basketball. He said it wasn't fair to programs that spent time honing a player's skill set, only to see that player leave for a different school. The irony of his thoughts on both issues, of course, is that Ryan, who makes 2.1 million annually, could leave Wisconsin for a different Division I institution with no penalty. Ryan left Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2001 after just two years with the program to take the big-boy job in the state at Wisconsin. Uthoff, whose compensation is a scholarship, isn't being afforded the same opportunity. We don't know how this bizarre situation will play out. Uthoff was scheduled to meet with Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez on Thursday morning as part of an appeals process to loosen the restrictions. But at the very least, this does not look good for Wisconsin. The program has received bad press all week, and Ryan's answers on Thursday did little to improve national perceptions. It certainly can't help in future recruiting battles with high school players. Should a player choose Wisconsin, what happens if he isn't satisfied and wishes to transfer? The adventures of Uthoff surely will stick in his mind. No, Ryan hasn't broken any NCAA rules. He is well within his rights to restrict Uthoff's next college destination however he sees fit. The appeal of those restrictions is unknown right now. But just because other coaches have done the same thing doesn't make it right. "I'd rather just get the whole thing over with," Uthoff said. "That's what I wanted from the beginning. I just wanted a quick and easy transition." Ryan said Thursday that he wanted to hear from Uthoff on which school he intended to transfer to and why, though Ryan admitted he isn't part of the appeals process. Uthoff said Wednesday that he had not met with Ryan since receiving his scholarship release six days earlier, and he didn't sound like someone interested in meeting with a coach who has made his transfer request so difficult. Instead of softening his stance Thursday, Ryan inadvertently fanned the flames to the national discussion on the transfer blocking issue, and Wisconsin continues to look bad because of it even if the program eventually acquiesces to Uthoff's requests. "What has happened here is it has become an attack on a particular institution, when over the years 300 and some institutions have done the same thing," Ryan said. "All I'm asking for is fairness." All Uthoff asks for is the same thing in return. Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.
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