|Thursday, March 6
Updated: March 7, 5:39 PM ET
League still angered by Bonnies' refusal to play
By Andy Katz
The Atlantic 10 might discuss the possibility of dumping St. Bonaventure from the conference at its April meetings after some believe the program embarrassed the league by refusing to finish its season, sources told ESPN.com on Wednesday.
It is unlikely that the Bonnies would be dropped, but the issue will be discussed after the presidents of the Atlantic 10 schools were livid with the Bonnies' decision Tuesday to quit, leaving remaining opponents Massachusetts and Dayton in the lurch. St. Bonaventure was scheduled to play at UMass on Wednesday and at home against Dayton on Saturday.
A discussion to ban St. Bonaventure is not officially on the agenda for the conference's spring meetings.
The Bonnies' 20-years-plus membership in the Atlantic 10 would weigh heavily in their favor, and the school's makeup -- small, private, Catholic -- is a perfect fit for the conference. Among the arguments against removing St. Bonaventure: It is unprecedented for a league to drop a team just because it was found to have committed an NCAA rules violation.
Some in the A-10 have said that this could have occurred in larger conferences like the Big Ten or SEC if a conference wanted to do that based on rules violations.
The A-10 continues to gather information that led to St. Bonaventure bagging its season. Sources described the situation to ESPN.com in this fashion:
On Feb. 24, A-10 athletics directors found out that junior forward Jamil Terrell was ineligible and never should have played for St. Bonaventure. As a result, the ADs spoke to the university presidents about the forfeiture of games. The Bonnies accepted the penalty and forfeited their six A-10 victories, but kept Terrell -- a reserve junior-college transfer -- on the bench during last Saturday's victory over George Washington.
Then the presidents went a step further by banning the Bonnies from the A-10 tournament. This move caught the athletic directors off guard, considering there had been no precedent for barring a team from a tournament because of an ineligible player who was no longer eligible to play.
What unfolded from Monday to Wednesday is still being uncovered but is growing more bizarre each day.
Sources said the Bonnies held a team meeting late Monday night with the coaching staff and some administrators present. The players were then told they were banned from the A-10 tournament. Sources said the players held their own meeting afterward and that at least four underclassmen decided they didn't want to play, then left school for spring break.
By Tuesday morning, the upperclassmen who wanted to play -- junior Marques Green and seniors Patricio Prato and Robert Cheeks -- were left without a united front to proceed. A bus company was put on hold while St. Bonaventure tried to round up enough players to send to Amherst, Mass. By late Tuesday, the school announced it was shutting its season down.
The A-10 is desperately trying to find out why administrators didn't demand that players stay put and where the coaching staff stood on the matter.
In a statement released Thursday, coach Jan van Breda Kolff said he welcomes an investigation into his team.
"I look forward to the day when the truth about all of this will be told,'' van Breda Kolff said. "We need to get answers to all the questions. We need to get to the bottom of this. I welcome, look forward to and will cooperate fully with an ongoing investigation.''
Senior forward Joe Shepherd, meanwhile, told ESPN that players would reach the same decision to boycott the games despite the criticism since.
"We're not quitters. We've been dealt a bad hand in this. It's like they're erasing our season and that's not fair,'' said Shepherd, the first player to speak since the boycott was announced. "Everybody is lashing out at us. But it seems like we don't have anybody representing us.''
In the conference's eyes, the lack of leadership from St. Bonaventure president Robert Wickenheiser, who was in California at the time, to Van Breda Kolff does not help the Bonnies' case. The words "lack of institutional control" -- which incorporate not just a lack of leadership but the university's admission of a player who didn't meet academic standards -- are being voiced throughout the A-10.
As late as Wednesday, sources said some St. Bonaventure players realized their mistake and were attempting to rectify the situation by asking back on the team to finish the season.
But the damage has been done and there is intense anger throughout the league. Complicating the matter was a report out of Cincinnati that Dayton didn't want to play at St. Bonaventure for fear of their team's safety.
The Cincinnati Enquirer quoted Dayton president Daniel Curran saying that he had "expressed safety concerns to the Atlantic 10." According to the newspaper's report, Curran was concerned that fans would be upset about St. Bonaventure's ban from the tournament. It was suggested that the game be played elsewhere but it wasn't pursued once the players bagged the season Tuesday.
The forfeited win for Dayton forced Xavier to win at Saint Joseph's on Wednesday to gain a first-round bye in the tournament, which the Musketeers did with an 88-80 victory. Xavier finishes with a home game against surging Temple on Saturday.
Fans who bought tickets for the Dayton game will get their money back, the school said in a letter sent Wednesday to season ticket holders. The letter was signed by athletics director Gothard Lane and associate AD Derek Morel.
"As an administration, we are committed to the reestablishment of the integrity and unparalleled pride that has characterized Bona basketball for many years. We assure you this period will pass, and success, dignity and Bona pride will soon prevail," the letter said.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.