March 10, 2003
It's not whether you win or lose, but whether you play the game

I don't think I've ever heard of a university president resign over an athletic controversy (though $deity knows a whole bunch of them, including every one that's hired Jim Harrick since he was fired at UCLA, ought to), but it just happened at St. Bonaventure's. Basically, St. Bonny's took on an ineligible transfer student, then was forced to forfeit six league wins once the league found out about it. University President Robert Wickenheiser personally approved the transfer, and now he's paying the price. Good on the Bonnies for standing on principles.

Unfortunately, there's still the matter of how their season ended. Once the players heard about what happened, they decided to forfeit their last two games, a decision that among other things wrought havoc with seedings in the Atlantic 10 conference tournament. Their coach, Jan van Breda Kolff, did not require them to play.

"I said we have to play but they said they need to hear it from the administration as to why this was happening," van Breda Kolff said. "It was spring break and we (the staff) were making phone calls trying to get a hold of people to tell them what the situation was. Everyone said, 'Well, you could have picked up five guys from intramurals,' but there was no one on campus. It was spring break."


Van Breda Kolff was guarded in what he would say but gave a little insight into what occurred last Monday night on campus. He said he told the team on Feb. 26 that Jamil Terrell wouldn't play against George Washington because the school and the NCAA were investigating his eligibility. He said the team then learned of the sanctions four or five days later from a school spokesperson.

The players apparently wanted to hear that they were out of the A-10 tournament from the school hierarchy -- not just van Breda Kolff and a spokesperson. He said that other people on campus told the players that the coaches knew about the sanctions well beforehand but didn't tell them.

"But that wasn't the case, we had no knowledge," van Breda Kolff said. "The players felt betrayed. It was very awkward."

I can understand the players' feelings, but I think they were wrong. Their actions affected a lot of people outside of St. Bonaventure's, people who had nothing to do with Robert Wickenheiser and the university's failure to communicate with them. They should have found a less disruptive way to express their displeasure, like maybe wearing a patch with Jamil Terrell's number on it or some such. Based on how St. Bonny's handled President Wickenheiser's behavior, I think the players would have gotten a satisactory outcome without causing so much trouble for everyone else.

UPDATE: Steve Smith agrees with me. St. Bonny's is hoping the Atlantic 10 won't drop them from the league.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Multiple offender Jim Harrick was suspended by Georgia for his role in their current academic scandal and expects to be fired again. The Bulldogs will sit out the postseason.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 10, 2003 to Other sports | TrackBack