MADISON—University of Wisconsin men’s basketball coach Bo Ryan let off a cloud of steam in his postgame press conference Wednesday night regarding his ineligible players.
Monday, freshman forward Marcus Landry made a statement to the media announcing that he was academically ineligible for the spring semester and would not play again this season. Wednesday afternoon UW released a statement from sophomore center Greg Stiemsma stating that his grades had suffered due to depression and that he was academically ineligible.
Earlier this month the Badgers lost forward DeAaron Williams, who quit the team, and while Ryan has declined to comment on Williams it is apparent that academics played a major role in his decision. Williams attempted to transfer to Bradley but was denied admission this semester for academic reasons, according to the Peoria Journal Star and likely would have been academically ineligible had he remained in Madison.
Ryan made it clear that he feels the privacy rights of his players were not respected in the days since Landry and Stiemsma missed UW’s game at Ohio State Jan. 18 and the first whispers of academic ineligibility began to surface.
Following UW’s 72-43 win over Penn State Wednesday night, a reporter referenced a comment Ryan had made earlier in the press conference regarding UW moving on with the rest of its season. The reporter then asked, referring to the Landry and Stiemsma announcements, “Do you get that sense that your team is now, that with everything out that it has moved on?”
Ryan responded with a nearly five-minute speech, addressing several perceived slights regarding his program’s handling of the ineligibility issues:
“We have already moved. Our guys knew some things that were going on. You’ve got to remember now, what is the truth? The truth, is it what you know? So, there’s a process here at the university on if there is a question on anything academically, or if there is an option, you exhaust all options.
“So our guys, as a family, we’re pretty tight. And we knew there was some situations but guys kept playing, kept working and all they want to do is help, in any way they can. But, you know, the high horses some people ride, I don’t know. I don’t know if I’d do that. But, if you don’t know, then you don’t know what you’re talking about.
“So, if guys have academic options that every other student has. On this campus and every campus I’ve been in the university system, there is an assistance program with employees, where they can take a leave, they can leave their job and nobody knows why they left. You’re not allowed to tell anybody. They have privacy rights. The employer can’t tell. They can’t—if a student-athlete is going through a process then it is absolutely in their best interests that they exhaust all options. So, that’s what they did and some other people kind of knew.
“And I know some people get upset when they don’t know because they think somebody else is going to scoop them, they think somebody else is going to get the story. Talking about all your sources and all that stuff that people have. I understand. I’ve been in this world a few years now.
“But understand this: When these young men have issues, they are just like an employee in the state system. They have all the rights in the world to exhaust every option that they have that’s fair and square. And that’s exactly what happened here.
“So, and I respect my employees that have had to take leaves for different issues. Eating disorders. Anxiety. Depression. Alcohol abuse. I know employees in this state—and they’ve got every right in the world and all their privacy was honored every time. Nobody snooping around. Nobody went after them. Nobody tried to out-do somebody else. I know, it’s college athletics.
“Go ahead, get on your high horses again and say, ‘I’m wrong.’ You can say I’m wrong. But I’ll you what: in this country, and in our society, I am right that people have privacy issues and privacy rights as a student-athlete, and they are allowed to pursue those.
“So our guys knew about it. But when you say now that that’s over. Hey, we were helping. We were already helping for people to deal with issues. So, that’s the way it is.
“It might have been different in another case of another student-athlete that was ineligible because maybe they knew right away. Because the TA and the professor were in town, didn’t go on break over that session and they knew right away all options were done. Did you ever think about that? Every case isn’t the same.
“So, you only ask for fairness. Nobody was hiding anything. And now that Greg has made a public statement then finally I can say what I just said. Try to put yourself in these guys shoes, in these student-athletes with rights, and let them exhaust them.
“Because workers—I don’t know if you have a union at your papers, your television stations, whatever. Do you have rights where you can take a leave if something happened on your job where you didn’t get a job done, but it’s because you had personal problems, do you get to take a leave? Do you get to do that without the other employees knowing what it is that’s wrong with you? Do you? I don’t know. My dad fought for the union for 40 years and they fought for that right.”