Smile Politely

Bo Ryan, a love story

It’ll be a few years before I can (or you should) judge John Groce on the merits.

Illinois athletics is rebuilding. Groce and Tim Beckman might prove incompetent, but it’ll be year three before we know for sure.

I’ll say this about Groce: I love his frank assessment of his team’s problem. After I wrote

John Groce earns $1.4 million dollars per year. That’s why he never says “the shots went in, so we won.”  Instead, he talks about energy and effort.

he proved me wrong (here at 11:20).

I can tell you who is good: Bo Ryan. He’s in his 41st year of coaching. Groce is in his 41st year.

On Sunday, Groce encountered the master, and lost.

Ryan is famous (or infamous) for baiting referees. He’s well-regarded for recruiting to his system, getting the best from his players. Wisconsin now has A Program. It’s running without a hitch, despite losing its starting point guard to start the year.

Yes, Stu Jackson initially lifted the Badgers from Dark Days of Steve Yoder. Before Jackson arrived, the Badgers hadn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since the Truman Administration. That’s the first Truman Administration.

Yes, Dick Bennett changed directions completely (from dazzling urbanites to plodding farmhands) while building on Jackson’s spiritual revival.

But it wasn’t until Bo Ryan arrived that Wisconsin truly became A Program. Sunday’s game was a master class for aspiring coaches.


On Sunday, Bo Ryan persuaded the officiating crew (Mike Sanzere, Ray Perone, Paul Janssen) to review and change an on-court ruling which is not, according to the NCAA Rule Book, reviewable.

Janssen made the initial call. He waved off Ben Brust’s lay-up at 1:34. Play continued. Then play stopped. 

I asked him about the play, the ruling, and the reversal. Ryan said he very kindly inquired about a review. Here at 3:25

John Groce may have been less warm and fuzzy in responding to the ruling reversal. He was awarded a technical foul, off court, just before entering the tunnel at halftime.

I was talking to Kathi LaTulip shortly afterward, and she reports that Groce used “no swear words.” Kathi is a good listener, and especially adept at recognizing swear words from short distances; so I confer I high degree of credulity to her account.

Brust missed both free-throws to start the second period. Illini SID Derrick Burson says the T did not force a change of possession.

So it’s hard to quantify the effect the reversal had on the game, except to say the Badgers got two more points that they would otherwise have had.

Don Berardini  — who first declared (with some sense of conviction) that the refs screwed up the call — pointed out that Illinois did lose an offensive set when Mike Sanzere stopped play to go watch TV for a while.

(Don also recommended listening to Tumbleweed Connection, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Although the Badgers seemed to dominate the entire second half, it was a two-possession game in the last minute. Thus, I feel safe in claiming that Bo Ryan’s manipulation of the officiating crew played a significant role in the outcome.

It’s fun to know the shot clock review rule was discussed and disparaged just last week by Badger fans. From that discussion, we can assume the rule was somewhere nearer the front of Ryan’s mind.

The relevant section of the NCAA Rule Book appears below. It’s dense reading.  Like FedRegs, but without the sense of humor. I offer it here because I’ve read it, and I think I understand it. But I don’t want to insist that I’m right. I got my law degree at Illinois, so what do I know?

Ignore the blue highlighting. (I don’t know what caused it, Chrome or the publisher, but it wasn’t me.) I’ve marked the relevant portions with red. They’re at the very bottom, with the last marking relating to the exceptions mark by the first (to be extra confusing, I guess … it wasn’t my idea).

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