Ryan winning despite missing piece

In Aston, Pa., Butch Ryan created a youth football organization that recently honored him by naming its new turf "Butch Ryan Field." That program, however, didn't get off to the best start when it convened in the 1950s. The day of the first football practice, Butch Ryan realized the kids might not have the proper equipment.

"[One] guy had his dad's hard hat from work," Ryan said. "You know those hard hats that you see those people wear when they're doing construction? Another kid had a leather helmet. 'My grandfather wore this.' He brings a leather helmet. We were dying. [Another] guy had a motorcycle helmet."

But Butch Ryan would make sure the kids had what they needed.

When the fields needed some enhancements, he found fencing. "Don't ever ask me where I got it," he always told his only son. When a family needed help with medical bills or food, Butch Ryan would buy bottles of beer from nearby pubs and put them in gift baskets for a raffle. Once the money had been collected, he'd give the cash to the family.

"I think with the passing of my grandpa, it's definitely helped [Ryan] maybe take a step back and realize all the good my grandpa did and all the relationships he formed and the imprint he had on so many kids' lives," said Will Ryan, one of Bo Ryan's sons and an assistant at North Dakota State.

Butch Ryan also had a humorous side, vividly recalled by those who came across him at the Final Four, an event Bo Ryan has attended with his father since the 1970s.

There was the night he had a dance contest with then-rap star MC Hammer in a hotel lobby. Or that time he fell off the team bus.

"Everybody kind of gasped," Robinson said. "He jumps up and looks in and says, 'Don't worry, I'm fine. I won World War II.'"

There were also those moments when he would abruptly end the silence in one of his son's practices.

"I don't remember who was shooting a free throw, but all of a sudden he gets right behind one of our players and shouts at the top of his lungs," said Tanner Bronson, a former Badgers guard and current Saint Louis assistant. "It just scared the players."

Bo Ryan cracks a lot of jokes, too.

His sense of humor is often hidden, however, when he's hollering at an official.

His father wasn't a comedian when it was time to work, either.

And work, with Ryan, has always been the emphasis.


Wisconsin, under Ryan, has been criticized for its style. The Badgers have been defensive forces in recent years. But they've never possessed the nation's flashiest offense (ninth in the Big Ten last season at 60.9 PPG).

This season, however, the Badgers boast the Big Ten's top scoring offense (82.0 PPG) through three games and are averaging just 9.4 turnovers per contest. It's early, but there's clearly a difference with this season's Badgers.

And it's no secret to Ryan. He has talent that has allowed him to spice up his offense. Sam Dekker is a sophomore who could make millions in a few months if he decides to enter the NBA draft. Frank Kaminsky (47.7 percent from the 3-point line) is a 7-foot problem for the Big Ten who's just as comfortable outside the arc as he is inside it. Ben Brust has made 44 percent of his 3-pointers. Jackson is a blue-collar point guard who starts for the Badgers even though most Division I programs refused to offer him a scholarship.

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