Wiscontroversy puzzles recruits but unlikely to hurt Badgers long-term
When Wisconsin parted ways with three-star quarterback Ben Bryant last week it caused exactly the type of negative reaction a college program wants to avoid. According to Bryant he was told Wisconsin no longer planned to honor his scholarship because he had tweeted a new scholarship offer from the University of Georgia.
Bryant’s story made the crossover from recruiting media to traditional sports media and several current recruits reached out to Bryant. It’s now a week later and the story has died down but will it lead to any negative ramifications for the Badgers going forward?
“Recruits see Bryant doing what almost every other recruit does - tweet out a new offer - and do not understand the issue with his actions,” Rivals.com Midwest Recruiting Analyst Josh Helmholdt said. “So, whether or not Bryant was using Wisconsin as leverage does not matter, because in recruiting perception is reality and the perception is that Wisconsin did Bryant wrong here. I doubt there will be mass decommitments or prospects across the country dropping Wisconsin from their lists, but in a recruiting game where prospects are won or lost by the slimmest of margins, this could swing a few battles away from the Badgers.
Some of the Midwest’s top prospects gathered at this past weekend’s Rivals 3 Stripe Camp presented by adidas in Columbus and several were buzzing about the situation, including some prominent recruits with Wisconsin offers.
“Yeah that’s crazy, I was kind of shocked,” Rivals250 Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech defensive back Kalon Gervin said. “ I didn’t think Wisconsin would be like that.”
But despite his relative surprise over the situation, Gervin said he doesn’t think it will impact his or any other Badgers targets going forward.
“It’s a business and all of that stuff is a business,” Gervin said. “You can’t stop messing with a school because of what they did to another person. It’s a business and everybody is different.”
Gervin’s opinion was echoed by three-star Columbus (Ohio) St. Frances DeSales athlete Brian Asamoah.
“I feel like when you’re committed to a school you should stay loyal to that school,” he said. “When you’re not committed I think you should just take your time and really be comfortable with the school you’re going to be at before you commit. It doesn’t change my perception of Wisconsin at all. It’s still a great program and I don’t think it will have much of an impact.”
Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell has seen plenty of this situations over his nearly two decades covering recruiting and said he expects it to blow over relatively quickly.
“I don't think it affects recruiting at all. I've seen things like this over the years and they never affect recruiting. People forget and kids don't care in my experience. “
Jon McNamara, who covers Wisconsin for BadgerBliz.com, a part of the Rivals.com network, said that while Bryant was close with some of the Badgers commits he also doubts the situation will cause much damage on the recruiting trail going forward.
“In my experience covering Wisconsin, the quarterback in each class has taken on a leadership role,” McNamara said. “That's something that could potentially hurt UW because Bryant, who was commit No. 3 in this cycle, did have a good relationship with the other pledges, specifically four-star linebacker Jack Sanborn. At the same time, five of UW's nine commits are from inside the state, and they're not going to lose any of those athletes.
“As far as future recruiting, I think it gives kids something to think about in the immediate future but it's going to be a non-issue in a few weeks. Bryant's high school (Lyons in Illinois) wasn't a big pipeline for talent, so I don't think you have to worry about a significant bridge being burned there. Had Bryant been an in-state kid, I don't think it would have gone down this way.”
As far as Bryant, he’s officially back on the market and Helmholdt said he thinks he will emerge from the situation with plenty of options going forward.
“Bryant has handled this situation extremely well, showing appropriate levels of regret, repentance and hurt in the aftermath,” Helmholdt said. “Some observers are speculating Bryant was being processed out by the Wisconsin coaches. I have a hard time seeing that because Bryant's stock was rising, if anything, this offseason, and recent offers - including the one from Georgia that started this whole deal - are evidence of that. Bryant is going to come out fine from this whole episode.”