Following allegations made in February 2015 by a woman who claimed she carried on a lengthy affair with then-Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, the university conducted an investigation into his conduct and concluded in May that Ryan did not misuse university resources. According to a statement from university chancellor Rebecca Blank, Ryan’s unexpected resignation seven months later was “entirely his decision.”
After announcing in June 2015 that he would retire upon the conclusion of the 2015-16 basketball season, Ryan resigned suddenly on December 15, 2015. The most commonly given explanation was that Ryan retired early to give longtime assistant Greg Gard a leg up on securing the permanent job.
Since well before his resignation, Madison has been awash in rumors of Ryan’s infidelity. This rumor mill was sent into overdrive when athletic director Barry Alvarez revealed that Ryan brought two attorneys to a meeting hours before he resigned. Throughout the course of reporting this story, we received over 60 tips, the vast majority alleging that infidelity on Ryan’s part ultimately led to his resignation.
Deadspin submitted a public records request to the university for a variety of records related to Ryan. One of the records we obtained was an email sent on February 11, 2015, to Ryan, senior athletics department officials Walter Dickey, Terry Gawlik, and Bruce Van De Velde, and chancellor Rebecca Blank.
In the email, a woman wrote that she had recently broken off a nearly six-year-long affair with Ryan, calling him “manipulative, a liar, cheater and deceptive,” and unworthy of representing the university.
In her email, the woman says that Ryan’s family eventually became aware of the affair. Seven minutes after the email was sent, Ryan forwarded it from his iPhone to his wife, Kelly.
The woman claimed that Ryan told her that he loved her, called her his “soul mate,” and said they would marry and have children one day. Eventually, despite his pleading, she broke off the relationship. She asserted that records on Ryan’s university-issued communication devices would confirm her story, and that she had accompanied Ryan on a number of recruiting trips, implying that Ryan spent university resources on her during those trips. At the time, Ryan was the highest-paid public employee in the state of Wisconsin.
The woman’s motivation for alerting university officials, she wrote, was a belief that Ryan was unfit to serve as a role model for the university, or as its representative.
On Friday, Deadspin contacted the university for comment on the woman’s email. They provided us with a May 13, 2015 letter signed by vice chancellor of legal affairs Raymond Taffora and deputy athletic director Walter Dickey, and addressed to the woman.
The letter is a summary of an investigation into the claims the woman made in her email, focused upon her implication that Ryan spent university resources to pay for her to accompany him on recruiting trips, and her allegations that he mistreated her. The university was unable to substantiate either allegation.
In the letter, Taffora and Dickey wrote that Ryan informed the athletics department of their relationship on December 2, 2014, two months before her email. After Ryan’s revelation he was interviewed twice by members of the athletic department, and despite the fact that “at that time there was no suggestion that any University policies were violated ... [Ryan] stated that University resources were not used inappropriately.”
After the woman’s February 2015 email, the university interviewed her, as well as Ryan two more times. Any text messages that may have been exchanged or voicemails left for Ryan no longer existed, but the university told her that they did review all emails exchanged between the two since 2009, all expenses submitted by Ryan since 2009, and all men’s basketball team expenses since 2009. This review, the officials wrote, uncovered no wrongdoing upon Ryan’s part.
Deadspin obtained all expenses reports submitted by or on behalf of Bo Ryan between the summer of 2014 and his resignation, and we were able to partially reproduce the university’s investigation. Ryan went on recruiting trips in July 2014 to attend AAU tournaments in both Las Vegas and Chicago, according to expense reports he submitted. Both are cities the woman claimed she traveled to with Ryan. We found no indication in the official records that Ryan was reimbursed for any expenses other than his own, though our records are incomplete.
The university also investigated the woman’s claims that Ryan had mistreated her. She echoed this complaint during her interview with the university, but was apparently unable to offer any additional evidence of mistreatment beyond what she had stated in her email. Ryan denied her allegations, and the university found that, “there is an insufficient basis to warrant any further action at this time.”
The woman who sent the email didn’t respond to multiple phone calls, text messages, or emails requesting comment. We were unable to reach Bo Ryan, and his representatives didn’t respond to emails or phone calls.
University of Wisconsin-Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank gave us the following statement:
In February, 2015, the University of Wisconsin-Madison received allegations related to the possible misuse of university resources and personal conduct of former Head Basketball Coach Bo Ryan. Prior to that Coach Ryan had disclosed to the university that he had had an improper personal relationship with a person unaffiliated with the university.
The university’s Office of Legal Affairs and the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics performed a thorough review after receiving this information. In this case, and in all others, the university takes conduct allegations seriously, reviews them thoroughly and takes action, when appropriate. These allegations did not involve any other member of the campus community beyond Bo Ryan.
The university determined on May 13, 2015 that Ryan did not utilize university resources during the course of the relationship in question. The university concluded the issue was a private matter. Bo Ryan’s resignation on Dec. 15, 2015 was entirely his decision.
You can read the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s full letter to the woman summarizing its investigation below:
Update (3:32 p.m.): Bo Ryan provided a statement to ESPN’s Andy Katz, calling his affair a “mistake” that was unrelated to his retirement, which was timed “intentionally to assure that Greg Gard got his hard-earned opportunity to coach the University of Wisconsin basketball team.” Ryan also said that after he informed the university about his affair, he “encouraged them to review any activity to assure them that no University resources were misused.”