Howe: Uthoff Adds Intrigue

With the new Big Ten football schedule, the Iowa-Wisconsin rivalry has taken a hit. But with developments in the schools' basketball programs, they could keep the fires burning. Hawkeye Insider Publisher Rob Howe explains.

Iowa CITY, Iowa - Iowa and Wisconsin fans do not like each other. Yes, it's a blanket statement, but it works in this case.

Sure, there are exceptions to the rule. There always are. But deep down, in most of the hearts of loyal fans from these schools, they'd rather drink swamp water than lose to the other guys.

Jarrod Uthoff announcing on Wednesday night that he would be enrolling at Iowa after transferring out of Wisconsin adds fuel to a steadily burning fire. The former Cedar Rapids Jefferson star chose to pay his own way for a year to be a Hawkeye rather than play a second for the Badgers on scholarship.

Uthoff sited Iowa's up-tempo style as being a better fit for him than was the methodical pace employed by the Badgers. Wisconsin has had quite a bit of success with that system and Uthoff knew of it when he chose it ahead of the Hawkeyes. It makes one wonder if that was the only reason for his Madison departure.

Volatile Badgers Coach Bo Ryan threw a tantrum when Uthoff announced that he'd be transferring. He created a restriction list that banned schools from as far south as Florida from talking to him. After a national backlash, Wisconsin backed off and allowed him to speak with any school outside of the Big Ten.

In the end, none of the other constraints mattered. Uthoff chose a restricted school in Iowa, whose coaches still can't speak with him. Maybe it was a hard decision for him, but it seems pretty obvious that he was a heavy Hawkeye lean out of the gate. He visited and talked to coaches on visits to Creighton and Iowa State and still picked the Hawkeyes without communicating with them.

In fairness, when Uthoff initially picked Wisconsin ahead of his home-state Hawkeyes, he had yet to see what new coach Fran McCaffery was going to do. The Todd Lickliter guided Hawkeyes were coming off the worst three-year run in the history of the program.

Uthoff red shirted in his first year at Wisconsin and witnessed the Hawkeyes upsetting his team twice last season. He had tangible evidence about what McCaffery was doing at Iowa.

None of this logic will matter when it comes to the rivalry, however. Iowa fans will gloat and Badger fans will cry foul on the Hawkeyes for tampering with Uthoff.

A few years ago, Wisconsin swooped in to grab Hawkeye signee, Ben Brust, after McCaffery replaced Lickliter. The Badgers hadn't offered the guard a scholarship until after he asked to get out of his Iowa letter of intent. That rubbed some in the Black and Gold contingent the wrong way and also changed Big Ten transfer rules, which Ironically will allow Uthoff to be on scholarship for the 2013-14 season and beyond.

All of this is coming at a time when Wisconsin looks a little less powerful than in recent memory and Iowa appears to be rising. If these teams are competitive with each other again and have some animosity about trading players, we could be in for some great basketball in the near future.

You have to like that possibility on the hardwood. Big Ten expansion has debilitated the football rivalry. The schools play only twice in the next five seasons.

The national attention shown Uthoff will fade. When the teams meet for the first time with him on the floor, there might be a few eyes watching from outside of the region. It will huge from here up to Madison and around the Big Ten.

Conference rules have changed because of transfers connected to these two schools. The coaches respect each other but would like nothing more than to beat the tar out of one another on the court. Their East Coast roots run deep.

This thing won't be like youth soccer where everyone gets orange slices after the game. It will be a sports war.

These rivals need it with the unfortunate football situation. If we could get both sports cranked up in the future, all the better.

I remember hearing back in the late '90s that some Wisconsin fans just across the border from Iowa threw rocks at the Hawkeye bus heading to Madison for a football game. While that behavior was bone-headed, it illustrated a palpable disdain.

Our mothers told us it was wrong to hate, which was good advice. She didn't say anything about extreme dislike or repugnance for another human or group.

Yeah, this development with Uthoff will be talked about by the fan bases for years to come. And, it should be a lot of fun.

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