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Bo Ryan’s Sudden Retirement Highlights Our Hypocrisy

Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire

Bo Ryan suddenly retiring on Tuesday night has left the college basketball community in a state of shock. Reactions have run rampant, feelings on the matter discussed, and the eyes of the Wisconsin fan base turn to a future without one of the best coaches in the entire country.

Much of the discussion over the last few hours has been eerily reminiscent to when South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier decided to call it a career in the middle of the season. Like the college football legend, most of what people are saying about Ryan’s in-season retiring isn’t all that negative.

That’s fine, too.

My personal belief on the matter is that a person can quit or retire when they feel it’s time. It’s their right, literally, as humans to make decisions for themselves. Speak as we might about loyalty and owing someone something, none of that exists unless the person leaving the program was well worth investing those feelings for. Meaning, if Ryan was an abomination of a basketball coach, whatever loyalties to the program he had for it, and it for he, would have never existed.


However, something funny has happened during Ryan’s retirement. Not ha-ha funny, either. More like, we are a bunch of hypocrites funny. Not all of us, but a solid enough portion of the country.

I’m talking about the group of people who are celebrating the timing of Ryan’s retirement because it forces Wisconsin to hire his top assistant coach — at least on an interim basis.

If this is the motivation for the timing of Ryan retiring, so be it. The move isn’t new. Jim Calhoun implemented a similar maneuver, albeit before the start of the season, to force UConn to hire Kevin Ollie. History tells us it worked out for everyone, too.

What is strange about this celebration, though, is that many of the people doing this are the same who bash recruits who transfer — regardless of their timing.

There’s no real difference in either decision.

Ryan — who, worth noting, had a history of blocking player transfer requests — wanted to quit. Players — who, worth noting, aren’t afforded decades worth of exploits to build relationships with fans — sometimes want to leave the school they originally committed to.

The difference?

One guy was paid for his services, and quit despite not fulfilling the terms of his contract (re: commitment). The other group of people are not paid for their services, are simply expected to swallow that “free-education” (which isn’t free, because they have to do something to obtain it) is enough, and that if they decide to transfer that they are dishonoring that commitment.

Really, the latter group gets pummeled for leaving schools. This isn’t a straw man situation, either. Simply take a gander at ye ole Twitterdotcom whenever a player of some consequence announces his intentions to leave a program. You would assume an act of treason occurred.

This from people, to other people, who owe each other not a single thing.

So I ask a question I only have theories to answer with: Why is it okay for a coach to retire/quit/leave a team midseason, and why do we take it so personal or as if an attack to the sport happened when players do so?

Theory One: We are selfish. For the same reasons people hold amateurism close to their hearts, we view any hint at free player movement as being one-step closer to college sports becoming professional sports. Come on, you’ve read those “transferring is out of control” columns by the same guys who are going to scribble about Ryan as some sort of gawd, too.

Theory Two: Coach worship. It is an affront to our senses, but many of college basketball’s ambassadors willfully choose to ignore entire contexts to make sure they protect the sport by way of never tossing any negatives toward the stars of the sport’s (coaches) general direction.

Theory Three: I am wrong about all of this (always possible).

Theory Four: Some people hate the idea of younger, talented people having so much of “whatever” (free education, options, etc.) and they don’t. A case of jealousy if you will. They don’t feel that way about coaches because they are older. They deem that the old person worked for their slot in life, while thinking the student-athletes were gifted their position, which is misguided.

Because they are my theories, I tend to think it is a combination of all of them except Theory Three. Then again, I might be somewhat biased on the subject matter posted above.



Seriously, good for Ryan if he wanted to quit. No matter the reasons. I wish him well drinking lemonade and telling his neighbor’s kids to get off his lawn.

Anyway, no one should be judged for applauding his quitting. That’s not the point of this column.

I’m merely trying to say, let’s just hope that everyone who thinks this is swell, neat, and awesome will do the same when the backup guard for the Club State Pool Cleaners or starting right tackle for the University of Broken Dreams wants to transfer out… regardless of their reasoning.

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