Ben Bryant situation highlights the worst of recruiting, Barry and Bret friends again, and more
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Today is Monday, May 15, and this is what’s for breakfast.
College recruiting is a funny and sometimes shady endeavor. It’s a lot of middle-aged men spending countless hours trying to get high school kids barely old enough to drive, and their parents, to commit to an idea, with many of them operating like used-car salesmen. The livelihoods of many coaches depend on a decision or two by a teenager. It’s a rough business that often can be an ugly one. And that was the case this weekend when news broke that Wisconsin apparently pulled its scholarship offer for quarterback Ben Bryant, five months after he committed to the Badgers.
The details of what happened are completely one-sided, as they usually are in these situations when schools can’t comment officially on unsigned prospective student-athletes. So we are forced to read between the lines of a lengthy statement released by the 3-star recruit Saturday night, one in which he admitted to having contact with a Georgia coach on several occasions, receiving a scholarship offer from the Bulldogs and then posting about it on Twitter, while also making Wisconsin aware of the offer and contact.
— Ben Bryant (@benbryant_7) May 14, 2017
On the surface, nothing seems outrageous about a 17-year-old being excited about an offer from a program such as Georgia. He was flattered, especially in the wake of what he called “subpar” contact with Wisconsin in recent months and during his visits to campus. And it’s that detail that should ring out louder than any of the other potential reasons the Badgers told him he should start looking elsewhere.
Yes, the contact, offer and tweet could have been contributing factors, but if those were the reasons, the Badgers are hypocrites. A player being committed to another school hasn’t stopped Wisconsin from going after him, most recently offering defensive tackle Apu Ika (Salt Lake City), who has been committed to BYU since last summer. And the tweet thing? Doesn’t hold water, either. Safety Reggie Pearson (River Rouge, Mich.) committed to the Badgers in August 2016, and a week later tweeted an offer he received from Arkansas. He remains a member of Wisconsin’s Class of 2018.
— Reggie (@reggiepearson21) September 3, 2016
So, with the filtered information that we have — all of it coming from a young man who had just experienced what he called one of the worst days of his life — it leads to one conclusion: Wisconsin no longer wanted Bryant. Why? We don’t know. But you don’t limit contact with a commit if you consider him a big part of your class, as most quarterbacks are.
No matter what, this is an unfortunate black eye for Wisconsin. Pulling a scholarship is a rarity for the Badgers. The program, especially under former coach Bret Bielema and current coach Paul Chryst, has carried itself as being somehow morally superior when it comes to recruiting. Bielema once famously called out Ohio State coach Urban Meyer for “illegal” recruiting tactics, and saying, “We at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC in any way, shape or form.” Bielema was in the SEC less than a year later, but his point stands. Wisconsin has recruited the right way.
This latest move, though, suggests the Badgers might not be holding that moral high ground any longer.
‘Bury the hatchet’
Barry Alvarez apparently can let go of a grudge. According to an article from Adam Rittenberg of ESPN, the once-close relationship between the Wisconsin athletic director and Bielema that disintegrated after the coach left unexpectedly for Arkansas in 2012, has been rekindled.
“Sometimes you just bury the hatchet and appreciate guys for who they are and remember the great times we had together, and move forward,” Alvarez told ESPN.com last week. “Life’s too short.”
Added Bielema: “It’s like we’ve never missed a beat.”
It should be noted that it was the wives of the two men, along with close friends, who put them on the path to reconciliation. And it’s great for them, if that’s what they feel is best.
But from an outside perspective, it seems mighty big of Alvarez to “bury the hatchet,” considering he was the one who had to remove it from his back in 2012 after being blindsided by his hand-picked successor and best friend heading to SEC. Some Wisconsin fans haven’t forgotten the way Bielema left, though a vast majority have moved on. That is easier to do when the program, which won three Big Ten titles under Bielema, hasn’t fallen off in his absence.
Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema are best friends again, according to @ESPNRittenberg. How do you feel about Bielema?
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) May 12, 2017
For Alvarez to become such good friends with Bielema again after being hung out to dry is darn near unbelievable. Alvarez is considered the godfather of Wisconsin football, and it’s a remarkable shift that no one saw coming.
Alvarez has been at Wisconsin for 27 years, yet still manages to surprise us.
More than 200 student-athletes graduated from Wisconsin on Saturday, including a number of high-profile ones, such as basketball players Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Vitto Brown, and football players Corey Clement and Garrett Dooley.
They probably received many gifts from friends and family for their accomplishment, but it’s unlikely anyone got something more unique and special than Zak Showalter, who had one of his final moments as a collegiate basketball player immortalized with artwork.
Yes, we all know how the game against Florida ended — the Gators buried a running 3-pointer in overtime to advance to the Elite Eight — but even with that, Showalter’s shot to send the game to overtime and the ensuing celebration are moments that will stick in the minds of Wisconsin fans for a long time. It was special and deserves to be remembered.