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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Vander Blue Saga Continues

As the Vander Blue soap opera-like tempest has come to a head in the last 48 hours, Rob Schultz of the Capital Times gives Badger fans the first substantial insight into the situation in a story posted Wednesday.

It is clear that Blue met with several academic advisors as well as the Wisconsin coaching staff to discuss his academic struggles. Eligibility issues would certainly be a legitimate reason for Blue to re-evaluate his options, especially if he was finally awakened to the reality of his situation by the meeting.

But if Blue really wanted to be a Badger, he would put in the necessary work and remain committed. It's that simple.

Even though I am glad to have more information than we did yesterday, I feel bad for Blue that his academic record is getting tossed out into the open for the public to consume. Would this type of article even have been written at all if it were not for the maelstrom of tips and rumors that hit the Internet message boards and finally reached the proverbial tipping point yesterday. Someone (media, the university, etc.) who was very eager to get out some information on the subject may look back and regret that specifics were released at the cost of the student, especially that junior college crack. After all, Schultz's story -- like every other one written on the subject thus far -- was not able to name a source.

Wisconsin is not allowed to officially comment on any player who has not signed a national Letter of Intent yet, making it more difficult to get straight facts on the ordeal.

If academics are the sole reason that Blue is reconsidering his verbal committment to Bucky, it is understandable why he has been largely silent. It would be fairly embarrassing. However, as anyone who has made a very serious life decision before knows, it is never just one factor that leads to your final answer.

Blue's verbal came much quicker than I expected last April before he had taken very many college visits. Blue reportedly had additional offers from Marquette, Indiana, and either Kentucky or Minnesota at the time. Blue wanted to stay close to home and admired Trevon Hughes. Marquette was in the middle of a head coaching transition at the time, which naturally was a red flag.

After the announcement last year, quoted the Memorial guard as follows regarding the early commitment:

“I trust Wisconsin and my family trusts Wisconsin so I am not planning on changing my mind. Somebody has got to offer me something crazy to change my mind. Everything is over with and I don’t have to worry about what college I am going to in two years. I can just play ball with my friends and keep my grades up.”

Since then, Blue exploded on the national AAU scene last summer and one of his best friends, Jeronne Maymon, signed with Marquette, which posted a 24-9 record in Buzz Williams' debut season. Conversely, Wisconsin suffered a "down" year. Academics aside, what once seemed like a fairly easy choice was blurred. And apparently Blue has not kept his grades up either ... a trifecta.

Some of these things together might have been enough to get Blue privately reconsidering. Thus the initial rumors, which Blue midly refuted ("I'm cool") to the media. The added challenge of meeting minimum academic standards and then perhaps slightly higher UW standards on top of that could be just another doubt.

All those doubts add up. Blue has had fellow Memorial ballers, past and present, telling him to come to Marquette and even more storied programs with more uptempo playing styles making themselves known to him (Louisville, for example). Honestly, not too many 16-year-old players would want to put in the extra effort if other options exist, options that for a variety of reasons are just as attractive. According to reports, Blue informed the staff of his doubts during the tail end of Monday's meeting.

I am not a conspiracy theorist that believes Wisconsin is leaking this information as an excuse for why Vander wants to look elsewhere. Nor do I believe that just because we haven't heard from Blue's family that he is not reopening his recruitment. As usual, the truth is somewhere in between.

Whether or not Blue has told anyone yet, the writing is on the wall. It's an only matter of time before he decommits officially. If he wants to work hard in the classroom, prove a lot of people wrong and recommit to Wisconsin, that is still possible. Unfortunately for Bo Ryan's program, the chances appear slim. I just hope both parties land safely.


  1. Aren't you being a little quick on removing Vander Blue from the "verbal commitments" section? It may yet happen, but he is still in the fold.

  2. Hey! Glad someone noticed.

    Yes Craig, you are 100% correct that I have reclassified him prematurely. We have yet to hear from Vander himself, but I think a statement of some sort will be coming soon, for better or worse.

    I'm being optimistic by still thinking there's a chance he signs with Wisconsin. But it's my own personal belief that the rumors are too tenacious to be just rumors and that Blue is at the very least thinking about changing his mind.

    Nothing would please me more than to be dead wrong about this.

  3. Adrian AugustineMay 20, 2009 at 9:58 AM

    I always forget about your blog but I'm always impressed when I rediscover it.

    So I'm constantly hearing about UW's hightened academic requirements for student athletes. This supposedly makes it tougher to get top recruits for basketball. But I've never seen any specifics. Any idea what they are? And why doesn't this seem to be an issue with hockey and football?

  4. Considering coaches can petition to make special allowances for borderline student-athletes, the specifics are less important than you might think. I think it's all gray area. I know it is very tough to get into UW-Madison for regular students and that trickles down to athletes as well, but I won't profess to know how difficult it is compared to other universities that Wisconsin competes with for recruits. In the end, I think a lot has to do with how much risk each sport's coaching staff wants to take on.

    Bo Ryan & Co. have been burned by several academic cases in the last five years that truly affected the team's quality via transfers and suspensions. So it appears to have given the staff a reason to take a more cautious approach with those recruits they aren't sure about. The argument has always been that 1 or 2 players will not cripple your squad in other sports like it can on a 13-scholarship bball team.

    In Blue's case, I think the worry over the classroom was overblown. The kid wanted to look around at other schools regardless.


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