One Last Point: Set my athletes free

April 24, 2012 11:05 pm

 

Those following the developing story of Wisconsin freshman basketball player Jarrod Uthoff’s ability to transfer to a school of his choice were either relieved or dismayed at the news on Friday. 

Wisconsin basketball coach Bo Ryan lifted some restrictions that were limiting the athletic programs that Uthoff could contact, but retained the restriction that prohibits Uthoff from contacting any Big Ten schools.

Why does Wisconsin retain the right to determine where one of their student-athletes can or cannot attend college?

According to Ryan, it is because of the scholarship contract that Uthoff signed when he committed to Wisconsin. 

“A scholarship is basically a contract,” he said. 

I agree that a scholarship can and should constitute a binding agreement between an athlete and the school which has paid for the year of tuition, but if that contract does not stipulate a “no-compete” clause when the athlete signs it, there should be no restriction once the contract expires.

Ryan initially placed restrictions on any school that Wisconsin may face in the foreseeable future – just so he wouldn’t have to face Uthoff.

Give me a break. Ryan is well paid for his services as a coach and he doesn’t want to face a former player in competition?

Unless a student has agreed to a multi-year contract (scholarship), and has agreed to not transfer to a school that competes in the same league, there should be no restriction. 

Coaches should not be allowed to determine where student-athletes go to school.

The NCAA already has a rule in place to keep athletes from transfering just to win a championship. The rule states that an athlete must sit out one year before they can play at the school to which they transfered.

I think that rule is great. It prevents schools from recruiting seniors in the prime of their collegiate athletic careers and prevents dynasties being built by schools simply because they can afford to give the scholarships.

A number of Ryan critics have cited the fact that the choice to restrict Uthoff’s movement is hypocritical because he would bolt to a new program in a heartbeat if he were offered the right amount of money. 

I disagree. Not with the idea that he might bolt for the right amount of money, but I’m sure there are restrictions in his contract that keep him from coaching at a school that competes directly with Wisconsin. 

The administrators would be foolish to offer a contract that didn’t contain such a clause.

College athletes aren’t paid in the typical sense of the word. 

Some would say they are paid via scholarships, but I would counter that form of payment is unavoidable. 

Some athletes wouldn’t be able to financially afford college if they weren’t on sports scholarships, and no one should be denied a desired education because they can’t afford it.

Ryan is allowed to limit Uthoff’s contact with competing schools because of an NCAA rule that requires athletes to get releases from their schools before they can talk with anyone else.

It’s a bad rule. If a school wants to make it a condition of their scholarship offer, that should be stated up front, and then the athlete has the opportunity to sign or not, depending on their desire.

There are a lot of bad rules and laws on the books, and until something happens to shed light on them they remain, lurking, in the dark.

The key is to get rid of them once they’ve been unearthed. It’s kind of like a carpenter-ant’s nest in a home. Once you find it, you kill all the ants with extreme prejudice, destroy the nest and prevent them from ever coming back.

Time to break out the can of Rules Raid and kill, destroy and prevent.