CHICAGO — Wisconsin Athletics Director Barry Alvarez said he was surprised with how quickly Jarrod Uthoff’s transfer case escalated into a national story last month.
“The thing got out of hand so fast and it was in the media so fast and in the social media so fast the process never really had a chance to get under way,” Alvarez said Wednesday at the Big Ten spring meetings. “It was unfortunate because there was some misinformation out there. Everybody was able to draw opinions and make statements without having all the facts.
“We have a process in place. He’s not the first one to ever transfer from our school. I feel very comfortable with our process and how we dealt with it.”
Uthoff, a freshman basketball player and a Cedar Rapids Jefferson graduate, requested his scholarship release from Wisconsin on April 12. The school, through Coach Bo Ryan, initially restricted him from talking with Iowa, Iowa State, Indiana and Marquette. On April 16, the school halted Uthoff from contacting all Atlantic Coast Conference schools and restricted Florida two days later.
By then Wisconsin’s restrictions had become a national story and Ryan was pummeled on radio, television, print and Internet outlets. Through an appeal process, Alvarez and associate athletics director Justin Doherty lifted all non-Big Ten restrictions.
“I just felt it was very unfortunate and actually Jarrod told me when he and I met that he was embarrassed by all the publicity,” Alvarez said. “It got way out of hand, the process. It was in the media, the social media, before you could even react to it.
“We’re not telling him he can’t go anyplace. We’re not giving him the release to go. That’s our choice.”
Alvarez said he was aware of the first round of restrictions but not the subsequent restrictions.
“I’m not really sure how the ACC thing got involved in it,” he said. “That was Bo’s decision. I don’t know.”
Alvarez said he’s not against athletes transferring from Wisconsin for another conference rival. He cited football safety Kim Royston, a St. Paul, Minn., native who wanted to leave Wisconsin and play for the Gophers. Wisconsin gave Royston a full scholarship release after his sophomore year in 2007. Royston then played two seasons for the Gophers.
“You have to take a look at each situation, you take a look at why and then make decisions,” Alvarez said. “Everyone’s a little bit different."
Uthoff, who red-shirted last season, has visited Creighton, Iowa State and Marquette (this week) since receiving his release. He told The Gazette last week he still is considering Iowa and informally visited Iowa’s campus the weekend of May 5-6. Uthoff said he’d like to make a decision before summer classes begin, which is June 4 at Iowa and Creighton. Iowa State’s summer classes start June 11.
Iowa’s athletics staff is prohibited from contacting Uthoff until he attends classes. Because Iowa is a school restricted by Wisconsin, Uthoff would have to pay his own way for one year before earning a scholarship. For any non-Big Ten school, Uthoff immediately is eligible for student aid but is banned from playing next year, per NCAA rules.
Wisconsin’s recruitment of basketball player Ben Brust prompted changes to the Big Ten rule book two years ago. Big Ten schools previously did not allow athletes to receive financial aid at a second league school once the athlete signed a letter of intent.
Brust, who signed with former Iowa basketball coach Todd Lickliter, asked for a full release, which was granted under the old rules. Twice Brust and his family appealed the league’s rules regarding intra-conference transfers and was successful. Brust then earned a scholarship to compete immediately at Wisconsin and will be a junior this fall.
“I thought it probably would enable more movement within the conference, but I didn’t see it being ... I thought you’d see isolated cases,” Alvarez said of the rule changes.Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said last week he expected discussion about the intra-conference transfer rules but both he and Minnesota Athletics Director Joel Maturi said this week the subject was not approached in meetings.