Coverage from:
Atlantic 10 Conference - 3/3
St. Bonaventure Athletics - 3/3
The Daily Hampshire Gazette - 3/4
St. Bonaventure Athletics - 3/4
Atlantic 10 Conference - 3/4
UMass Athletics - 3/4
The Olean Times-Herald - 3/5
The Daily Hampshire Gazette - 3/5
The Daily Hampshire Gazette - 3/5 column


Atlantic 10 Imposes Men's Basketball Championship Sanction On St. Bonaventure
From The Atlantic 10 Conference, 3/3/2003

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- The presidents of the Atlantic 10 Conference have declared St. Bonaventure University ineligible for the 2003 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Championship.

This sanction is in addition to St. Bonaventure's self-imposed sanction of forfeiting six Conference wins.

These actions come a week after St. Bonaventure asked the Atlantic 10 Conference and the NCAA for clarification on the eligibility of junior basketball player Jamil Terrell. St. Bonaventure declared Terrell ineligible on Feb. 26 after determining he did not meet eligibility guidelines as they relate to junior college transfers.

"This was a decision our presidents took very seriously," says Atlantic 10 commissioner Linda Bruno. "This is a very uncharacteristic problem regarding one of our institutions and our presidents are determined that something like this never happen again."

As a result of this sanction, the Atlantic 10 Championship will now feature five teams with opening round byes and three opening round games. Dayton, Saint Joseph's, and Xavier have already clinched byes. Temple, which had clinched a bye, has now not clinched because of Rhode Island earned a forfeited win. Richmond, which has clinched the third seed in the West, will now receive a bye due to St. Bonaventure being locked into sixth place in the East. The forfeiture of games also alters the Atlantic 10 standings. The revised standings are reflected on the web page.


Men's basketball team to forfeit six conference wins
Team barred from playing in Atlantic 10 Tournament
From St. Bonaventure Athletics, 3/3/2003

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. - The following is a press release issued March 3 at 2:30 p.m. by St. Bonaventure vice president for Public Relations David Ferguson:

St. Bonaventure University's men's basketball team will forfeit six Atlantic 10 Conference victories in which a player, recently declared ineligible, participated.

This sanction, self-imposed by the University and endorsed by the Conference, was announced today by Robert J. Wickenheiser, Ph.D., president.

In addition, the Conference is further sanctioning the University by not allowing it to play in the post-season tournament, which is due to start March 10.

These actions come a week after the University asked the Conference and the NCAA for clarification on the player's eligibility. The NCAA last week determined that the player, Jamil Terrell, did not meet eligibility guidelines as they relate to junior college transfers. Following that determination, the University declared him ineligible.

In announcing the University's sanction, Wickenheiser noted that he had conferred with his fellow presidents in the Conference and with Conference Commissioner, Linda Bruno.

"This serves as a reminder that we can never be too mindful of the important role the NCAA plays in intercollegiate athletics," Wickenheiser said. "I am very hopeful that the NCAA will see these penalties as sufficiently severe sanctions."

The forfeiture of the Conference victories changes the team's record to 1-13 in the Conference, placing the Bonnies in last place in the East Division.

The team has two regular-season games remaining: Bonaventure plays at the University of Massachusetts on Wednesday and is scheduled to host the University of Dayton on Saturday.

"I want to emphasize that none of these actions indicates any wrongdoing by Jamil Terrell, who was accepted as a student in good standing," Wickenheiser said. "My own involvement in the original decision to accept Jamil was founded on my desire to help him. I made this decision and I accept full responsibility for this turn of events."

Wickenheiser said the University has begun the process for Terrell's reinstatement and will continue to work with the Atlantic 10 Conference and the NCAA in this matter.

"Throughout this process, I made a series of well-intentioned decisions based on a series of assumptions and interpretations," Wickenheiser said. "The NCAA has come to a conclusion different from the one I reached. We will continue to work very closely and cooperate completely with the Conference and the NCAA in the assessment of the current situation to see what we can learn from this.

"We have a long and proud tradition of excellence in our basketball program," he continued. "Our players compete with heart and never give up. Our coaches are outstanding and are supported by a University staff that is committed to their success. Our fans are the best anywhere.

"We are all deeply saddened by what has happened - especially for the players and coaches who have worked so hard. We will learn from this, move forward, and, I am confident, achieve even greater success in the future."


Bonnies’ error helps UMass
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 3/4/2003

On the heels of two straight losses, the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team has moved up in the Atlantic 10 standings.

Sanctions imposed by St. Bonaventure and the Atlantic 10 Conference will cause the Bonnies to forfeit six conference games andnot participate in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

St. Bonaventure admitted that it played the first 25 games of its season with an ineligible player - junior big man Jamil Terrell - and self-imposed the six-game penalty. The presidents of the 12 Atlantic 10 institutions met via conference call Monday and decided to also bar St. Bonaventure from participating in the conference tournament that begins Monday at campus sites.

The Minutemen (now 5-9) were fifth in the Atlantic 10 East prior to the announcement but moved into fourth place as the Bonnies (1-13) fell to last.

UMass needs a win, or a loss by Fordham (improved to 3-11 from 1-13) to clinch fourth place. The Minutemen play St. Bonaventure at home Wednesday at 7 p.m. and host Saint Joseph's on Saturday at noon. Fordham plays host to Richmond Wednesday and travels to George Washington on Saturday.

Finishing fourth is significant because it means a home game in the first round of the A-10 Tournament. With the Bonnies out, Richmond, the No. 3 seed in the West, will also get a first-round bye.

"We still have some work to do. We have to win Wednesday. We'd obviously be happy to have the home game, but we have to earn it," UMass coach Steve Lappas said. "You always want do it on the court. You don't want these things to happen. But obviously we'd rather play home than on the road. But we didn't do it on the court so it takes a little bit off of it."

Last week, the Bonnies announced in a statement that Terrell, a transfer from Coastal Georgia Community College, had been ruled "athletically ineligible in accordance with NCAA Guidelines. This action is based on a determination by the NCAA that Jamil does not meet eligibility guidelines as they relate to junior college transfers."

The Buffalo News reported that Terrell earned a welding certificate from the school, but NCAA rules require junior college transfers to have an associate's degree in order to be eligible.

The NCAA is expected to further investigate the situation and could impose greater sanctions, although St. Bonaventure President Robert J. Wickenheiser, whose son Kort is an assistant on coach Jan van Breda Kolff's staff, thought the penalties imposed Monday would be enough.

"I am very hopeful that the NCAA will see these penalties as sufficiently severe sanctions," Wickenheiser said.

Wickenheiser, who helped Terrell get admitted to St. Bonaventure, assumed responsibility for Terrell's eligibility questions.

"I want to emphasize that none of these actions indicates any wrongdoing by Jamil Terrell, who was accepted as a student in good standing," Wickenheiser said. "My own involvement in the original decision to accept Jamil was founded on my desire to help him. I made this decision and I accept full responsibility for this turn of events."

On the Atlantic 10 conference call Monday, van Breda Kolff, who is in his second year at St. Bonaventure, absolved himself of any responsibility.

"He was declared eligible. We went through a lot of paperwork and a lot of things that were taken care of, and everybody from here on in said everything was in compliance. So we went along with what everybody else said," van Breda Kolff said. "Now, things have changed dramatically."

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com.


Men's Basketball will not play final two scheduled games
Games vs. UMass, Dayton will go down as forfeit losses
From St. Bonaventure Athletics, 3/4/2003

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. - The following text is a statement issued at 3:15 p.m. March 4 by St. Bonaventure's Office of Public Relations:

St. Bonaventure University has notified the Atlantic 10 Conference that its men's basketball team will not be playing the two final games of its season.

Bonaventure was scheduled to play at the University of Massachusetts Wednesday night and to host the University of Dayton on Saturday.

This comes a day after the University was sanctioned over the participation this season of a player determined to be athletically ineligible. The University imposed a self-sanction of forfeiture of six Conference victories in which the player participated. The Conference endorsed that sanction and imposed a further sanction of prohibiting the University from participating in the Conference's post-season tournament.

In meetings yesterday, members of the team expressed anger, frustration and dismay over the sanctions and concluded later in the day that the enthusiasm and motivation needed to perform successfully in the games were lacking.

Robert J. Wickenheiser, Ph.D., University President, expressed his "sincere regret" at the events that led to this decision.

"My heart goes out to the players," Wickenheiser said. "I spoke with one of the players last evening and he shared with me the feelings of hurt and confusion the team has about not being able to play in the tournament. I very much sympathize with the emotions they are feeling at this time."

In addition, the Office of Public Relations issued the following statement on Tuesday:

STATEMENT FROM WILLIAM E. SWAN
Chairman, University Board of Trustees

"We are deeply concerned about the recent turn of events regarding our men's basketball team. We are most concerned about the devastating impact all of this is having on our student-athletes, as well as the entire University community. The student-athletes, in particular, are in our thoughts and prayers. I have been in touch with President Wickenheiser and he assures me that the Administration is cooperating fully with the NCAA and Atlantic 10 Conference. The Board of Trustees will, of course, review this matter carefully and will report our findings to the campus community as soon as our review is complete."


St. Bonaventure Announces It Will Forgo Its Remaining Men's Basketball Schedule
Dayton-SBU game will not be replaced on Atlantic 10 Television Network
From The Atlantic 10 Conference, 3/4/2003

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- St. Bonaventure University announced today that it will forgo its remaining men's basketball schedule.

As a result, Wednesday's game at Massachusetts and Saturday's home game with Dayton are declared Atlantic 10 wins for both Massachusetts and Dayton and losses for St. Bonaventure. The wins will be reflected only in the teams' Conference records.

On Monday, St. Bonaventure forfeited six Atlantic 10 wins for use of an ineligible player. The presidents of the Atlantic 10 accepted that decision and imposed a further sanction by declaring St. Bonaventure ineligible for the Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Championship.

"We are extremely disappointed that St. Bonaventure has taken this action," says Atlantic 10 commissioner Linda Bruno. "The Atlantic 10 Presidents Council will discuss the university's decision at their April 1 meeting."

With the decision to suspend the remainder of its season, Saturday's Dayton-St. Bonaventure game, which was to be carried on the Atlantic 10 Television Network, will not be televised. No replacement game will be aired.


St. Bonaventure Game Cancelled
Fans holding tickets for game may use those tickets for Monday's A-10 Tournament game.
From UMass Athletics, 3/4/2003

AMHERST, Mass. -- University of Massachusetts Athletic Director Ian McCaw has been informed by the Atlantic 10 Conference that St. Bonaventure has elected not to travel to Amherst for tomorrow nights men's basketball game against the Minutemen.

As a result of St. Bonaventure's decision, UMass has earned the No. 4 seed in next week's Atlantic 10 Tournament, and will host an opening-round game on Monday, March 10, at 7 p.m. in the Mullins Center. Massachusetts will face either George Washington or Duquesne in the contest, with the winner advancing on to Dayton, Ohio, for the Atlantic 10 Championship quarterfinals, Thursday, March 13.

"I'm disappointed by this news, but we are looking forward to hosting an opening round Atlantic 10 Tournament game next Monday night in Amherst," McCaw said.

Fans already holding tickets for Wednesday's game against the Bonnies will be able to use them for admission into Monday's opening-round Atlantic 10 Tournament contest.

Those fans looking to purchase tickets for next Monday's game may do so by contacting the UMass Athletic Ticket Office at 1.866-UMASS.TIX. All tickets are priced at $20.00 each, and may be purchased during normal business hours (8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.) through Friday, or during Saturday's game against Saint Joseph's or on Sunday at the Mullins Center Box Office from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

UMass students will be admitted free of charge to next Monday's A-10 Tournament game with their student identification card, just as they are during the regular season. Students wishing to attend Monday's game will be able to pick up tickets in advance on Monday, March 10, from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Mullins Center Box Office, or from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Campus Center. Students not picking up tickets in advance may still attend the game by presenting their student identification card at the gate Monday evening.

As a result of today's decision, Wednesday's game will be declared an Atlantic 10 win for Massachusetts and a loss for St. Bonaventure. The victory will be reflected only in the teams' Conference records. UMass, 11-16 overall and 6-9 in the Atlantic 10, hosts Saint Joseph's on Saturday, March 8, at Noon in the Mullins Center.


Done deal: Bona’s season is over
By Brian Moritz, The Olean Times-Herald, 3/5/2003

St. BONAVENTURE — The silence spoke volumes.

At 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team was scheduled to start practice in preparation for its Wednesday night road game against Massachusetts.

But except for a rack of untouched basketballs, the gym was empty — silent except for the hum of the lights.

The Bonnies never took the floor for practice. They never boarded the team bus for Amherst, Mass.

They ended their season a week early.

In a stunning and unprecedented move, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team’s players decided not to play the final two games of the regular season.

The school backed the move, announcing Tuesday afternoon that the team would not play its scheduled games this week against Massachusetts and Dayton. Those games go in the books as forfeit losses.

A once-promising season for the Bonnies ended not on the basketball court but in a conference room in Hopkins Hall with a press briefing.

“We’re all disappointed in this,” said David Ferguson, the university’s vice president for marketing and public relations. “We’re all disappointed that it turned out this way. This is a complicated situation, and the players, the coaches and the fans are all victims in this thing.”

The Bonnies’ decision not to play their final two games was a reaction to sanctions imposed by the school and the league on Monday. Bona forfeited six Atlantic 10 wins and was barred from playing in next week’s conference tournament because it used an ineligible player — junior center Jamil Terrell — in 25 games this season.

The players met Monday night which is when they decided not to play.

“They just feel angry, frustrated and confused,” Mr. Ferguson said. “They just didn’t have the enthusiasm or motivation to concentrate on a game. UMass and Dayton are two very good teams. You just don’t go out on the court and do a pick-up game with them.”

Some players left campus on Monday night following the meeting — it wasn’t known who or how many.

Several players were in the Reilly Center on Tuesday morning, when a flurry of meetings took place between them, coaches and members of the school administration in an attempt to save the season.

“This is sad,” said senior co-captain Patricio Prato, one of at least four Bona players who were in the RC on Tuesday. “It stinks, but there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s out of my hands.”

No Bona players would talk about the Monday meeting or the decision not to play. Calls to several players either went unanswered or were not returned on Tuesday night.

Bona head coach Jan van Breda Kolff did not return a message left on his cell phone. He has not made any comments since the sanctions were announced on Monday. No members of the Bona athletic administration have commented on this week’s events.

The team’s decision means the Bonnies will finish the season in last place in the A-10 East Division with a 1-15 record — the program’s worst mark in a decade. UMass and Dayton both gain forfeit wins as a result of Bona’s decision. For the time being, Bona’s overall record remains 13-14 — that will only be changed by an NCAA ruling.

The school and the men’s basketball program still face an NCAA investigation into the Terrell incident. Mr. Terrell, a 6-foot-8 center who transferred to Bona from Coastal Georgia Community College last April, was declared ineligible last week because he does not meet the NCAA guidelines for junior college transfers. He received a welding certificate, not an associate’s degree required by NCAA rules.

On Monday, university President Dr. Robert J. Wickenheiser — whose son, Kort, is an assistant coach on van Breda Kolff’s staff — took full responsibility for Mr. Terrell being declared eligible.

In addition to the NCAA investigation — which is expected to take some time — the school and men’s basketball program could face additional penalties from the Atlantic 10. Those penalties could be either financial or punitive — or both.

“We are extremely disappointed that St. Bonaventure has taken this action,” said A-10 commissioner Linda Bruno. “The Atlantic 10 Presidents Council will discuss the university’s decision at their April 1 meeting.”

THE DECISION

Bona’s players were first informed of the sanctions at a pre-practice meeting on Monday afternoon. The team left the Reilly Center without practicing — a very unusual move, especially this late in the season.

Later that day, the players met to discuss their immediate future.

Mr. Ferguson said he wasn’t sure if an actual vote was taken by the team. But the decision was made among the players on Monday not to play the games.

“It certainly was a consensus,” Mr. Ferguson said, but he did not say the decision was unanimous.

The players’ choice was based on the self-imposed and A-10 sanctions, which for all intents rendered Bona’s final two games meaningless.

“When you step back from it, this was always a risk that you take when you tell someone that their season’s basically over,” Ms. Bruno said.

Mr. Ferguson said that the players were devastated by the news of the sanctions on Monday, which in turn fueled their decision not to play.

“I don’t know for sure, but I would sense there probably is some anger (toward the school),” Mr. Ferguson said. “There’s probably some against the conference, there’s probably just some anger and frustration. They are dealing with their own sets of emotions and feelings. This is not an easy time for these young men.”

THE MEETINGS

Tuesday was scheduled to be a long day for the Bonnies.

The team was slated to practice at the Reilly Center from 9:30-11:30 a.m. The team then planned to board two buses — one sleeper coach for the players, one regular Coach USA bus for coaches, staff and traveling party — for the 6 1/2 -hour drive to Massachusetts. The team had dinner reservations in Springfield, Mass., and planned to stay at the Springfield Marriott, not far from the UMass campus in Amherst.

Tuesday was a hectic day at the Reilly Center. In addition to the men’s travel plans, the Bona women’s team was practicing and leaving for the Atlantic 10 Tournament in Rhode Island.

But 9:30 a.m. came and went without the start of men’s practice.

At about 10:30 a.m., several players — including Mr. Prato and classmate Robert Cheeks, both of whom are team captains — walked into Mr. van Breda Kolff’s office. Fifteen minutes later, Bona athletic director Gothard Lane joined the meeting. He stayed for about 45 minutes.

“It wasn’t quite trying to convince the players to play,” Mr. Ferguson said of the meetings. “It was paying attention to them, really caring for them and seeing how they were doing. There was much more attention given to how they were doing. (The meetings were) to see if that decision (not to play) was still that decision.

“What the players were saying was that ‘Our hearts are not in it this week.’”

Mr. Lane and Mr. van Breda Kolff wanted to play the final two games and expressed that sentiment to the players.

“(Mr. Lane) was involved, and he too wanted the games to be played, if at all possible, and was very aggressive about that,” Mr. Ferguson said. “(Mr. Van Breda Kolff) was ready to play if we could put the team together.”

That was another issue Bona faced on Tuesday. Because some players had already left campus, questions arose as to whether the school could get enough players together to play a game.

“You don’t just walk on the court with a handful of players,” Mr. Ferguson said. “We owe it to the teams we’re playing and to the fans to perform at a high level.”

Around 11:30 a.m., players began leaving Mr. van Breda Kolff’s office. Some of them walked through the Reilly Center stands to avoid a throng of reporters waiting in the hallway.

“We’re just trying to stay together and think about what our futures are right now,” Mr. Cheeks said after emerging from the basketball offices.

Junior guard Marques Green was on campus but declined to comment. When asked if he had a minute to talk, he told The Times Herald, “Nah, I’ve got to go.”

Sophomore Patrick Methot-Lottin was also in the basketball office Tuesday morning.

Throughout the morning, Ms. Bruno and the A-10 were in contact with Bona officials. The league briefed the athletic directors on the situation in a conference call, and Ms. Bruno spoke with Dr. Wickenheiser on Tuesday. She said she never talked with Mr. van Breda Kolff.

At no point did either Bona or A-10 officials try to force the Bonnies to play their games.

“We did not demand that they play the game,” Ms. Bruno said. “We also didn’t want to turn it into, go find five players and get a team together. That’s not fair to the teams they were competing against.

“Everyone handles these types of situations differently.”

At 12:15 p.m., the two buses — which arrived at the RC an hour earlier to pick up the team — drove away empty.

By 12:30 p.m., the matter was resolved and the games were called off. Mr. Ferguson met with reporters a little after 3 p.m. to deliver the news.

By 4 p.m., the lights in the Reilly Center had gone dark.

“It’s not a good time,” Mr. Prato said earlier in the day. “It doesn’t feel good at all. That’s all I can say ... it doesn’t feel good.”


UMass disturbed by foe’s forfeits
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 3/5/2003

AMHERST - A day after the St. Bonaventure University men's basketball team was forced to forfeit six league victories and barred from the Atlantic 10 league postseason tournament, the Bonnie players retaliated.

In an unprecedented move, the St. Bonaventure team decided not to play its final two games - tonight against the University of Massachusetts at the Mullins Center and Saturday at home against Dayton. As a result, the Bonnies' season is over, with an official 1-15 conference record.

UMass Athletic Director Ian McCaw said he was disturbed at the St. Bonaventure players' decision to end their season prematurely.

"This is uncharted territory, truly a unique situation," he said. "I'm very disappointed in the way it's played out and the way it's been handled. Obviously losing a home game the day before (it was to be played), that's not right for any student-athletes involved, in my opinion. It reflects very negatively on them and certainly on St. Bonaventure."

The forfeit gives UMass a league win which clinches fourth place for the Minutemen, guaranteeing them a home game Monday in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament.

McCaw said that tickets for the St. Bonaventure game will be honored for Monday's playoff game. UMass will play either George Washington or Duquesne.

The penalties against St. Bonaventure were announced Monday after it was discovered that junior center/power forward Jamil Terrell, who transferred from Coastal Georgia Community College in Brunswick, Ga., did not have an associate's degree, a necessary requirement to be eligible as a junior college transfer.

St. Bonaventure imposed the forfeits of its six league victories upon itself, while the league banned the team from the conference tournament. The NCAA is expected to investigate and could levy further penalties.

After learning of the punishment, the basketball players met Monday night and voted not to play. Because the school already is on spring break, several players then left campus.

"Everybody at some level wanted to play the games," St. Bonaventure spokesman Dave Ferguson told the Associated Press. "The players and coaches have worked very hard on this (season) for a long period of time. Even into today, there were conversations to see if it were possible to play the games. But it was decided the players simply did not have the motivation."

Ferguson added that Coach Jan van Breda Kolff would have played the games. "He was ready to play if we could get the team together," Ferguson said.

It was quite a turn of events for a program that had regained its competitiveness in securing one NCAA postseason berth and three in the second-tier NIT during the past five years. Prior to that, the Bonnies had been limited to two NIT berths since reaching the NCAA tournament in 1978.

Atlantic 10 Commissioner Linda Bruno echoed McCaw's stance.

"We are extremely disappointed that St. Bonaventure has taken this action," said Bruno, who added that the conference's Presidents Council could decide to take further action. "I've not talked to the Presidents Council. I don't know what their reaction is going to be."

She added that the league will likely create a written policy for consequences in the future should a similar action occur.

The UMass players said they were surprised at the Bonnies' decision.

"It is weird. Usually a team, for pride sake would want to finish up the season," senior Micah Brand said. "I could see if I was in the situation it would be hard, but if I was put in that position I'd want to finish out the season.

Junior point guard Anthony Anderson agreed. "I was definitely disappointed," said Anderson. "In a way I could see them feeling this way, but they have some seniors and I would want to play the last games of my career."

UMass coach Steve Lappas said he wouldn't allow his players to stage a walkout if faced with a similar situation. "All I'll say is, my team would play the game," he said.

St. Bonaventure coach van Breda Kolff and Athletic Director Gothard Lane have yet to comment publicly on the matter.

Lane did speak to McCaw and the UMass athletic director was satisfied his program would be sufficiently compensated for the lost revenue that would have come from a home game. "I spoke to the St. Bonaventure A.D., and we've agreed in principle to come up with a mutually satisfactory resolution," McCaw said.

UMass and Dayton will be credited with league wins for the forfeited games, but the results will officially be considered "no contests" by the NCAA.

Despite the free win, Lappas was upset to lose an opportunity to help prepare his team for the season-ending tournament.

"I'm sorry to not have the game. I thought it was important for our program," said Lappas, who took the extra time Tuesday to go recruiting. "I like those young kids to play as many games as they can. It was a home game and we wanted to play the game."

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com.


Quitter label will linger
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 3/5/2003

It's hard to shake a label, especially a negative one.

For years, people who actually knew anything about St. Bonaventure's men's basketball program looked at the Franciscan school as a bunch of under-recruited scrappy overachievers who could put a scare into Division I heavyweights.

From yesterday to many days in the future, the Bonnies will be remembered as the team that quit.

Long after the current players have graduated or left the western New York institution and the coach, athletic director and university president are (hopefully) fired, the quitter label will linger.

A day after being punished by their school and the league for a blatant rules violations - playing an ineligible player 25 games - the Bonnies took their ball and went home, refusing to play their final two games of the season.

When his players came to coach Jan van Breda Kolff and told him of their intentions not to play, his response should have been simple:

"Play the game or lose your scholarship."

If you suited up the walk-ons, water boys and intramural all-stars, at least you had the integrity to play.

But that integrity doesn't appear high on van Breda Kolff's priorities. Already not popular among fans, colleagues and media for his arrogance, he comes out of this looking gutless.

Before the penalty was announced, he absolved himself of all responsibility, claiming ignorance that junior college transfer Jamil Terrell needed an associate's degree to be eligible.

The quotes that are all over western New York newspapers leads a reader to only two conclusions:

1. The coach knew Terrell shouldn't have been eligible.

2. He's completely clueless.

It's possible to be No. 2 because the guy did leave a job coaching in Malibu (Pepperdine) for Olean, N.Y., but the general consensus is he's guilty.

After the penalties were announced Monday and after his team bailed on Tuesday, van Breda Kolff has been hidden, leaving the school's public relations department to deal with the fall out.

This hasn't fared well, either.

In an interview with the Buffalo News, St. Bonaventure spokesman Dave Ferguson made the following statement about college athletes:

"They are here, first and foremost, to learn how to develop skills to succeed in life first. They're here as athletes second. If they can learn bad things happen to good people and sometimes bad things are out of your control, they can learn a valuable lesson from this."

Exactly what lesson is being taught here? That if life deals you a disappointment, it's OK to quit? There isn't an NBA player in the bunch, so all of them are going to have real jobs some day.

There is honor is continuing to strive after the goal is no longer in sight. There are teams across America who have no chance of making the NCAA Tournament, players who will still pull on their team's colors and represent their schools admirably.

On Monday, St. Bonaventure was a little school that committed an infraction.

But on Tuesday, the Bonnies were fodder for ESPN's Pardon the Interruption, and talk show heads who previously couldn't identify the school's mascot or home city were using St. Bonaventure as a punchline.

NCAA infractions seem to emerge at least once a month. They hardly rate more than a couple paragraphs inside of most sports pages, but nobody has ever quit before.

The former "little engine that could" became the "spoiled children who wouldn't."

Van Breda Kolff would be better now following the example of his players - quitting and taking whoever didn't want to play with him.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com.


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