According to americancatholic.org, the real St. Bonaventure was a holy man with great intelligence and determination. After overcoming a terrible childhood illness, he went on to become one of the greatest Franciscan theologians of the 13th century.
But sadly, people are now calling him the patron saint of quitters because the men’s basketball team at the university baring his name voted to go on spring break this week in lieu of playing their final two games.
As a result of an NCAA violation (playing an academically ineligible player), the team was forced by the Atlantic 10 to forfeit its two remaining conference games and sit out of the upcoming conference tournament.
In the national media onslaught that has descended upon the quaint town of Olean, N.Y., the word “quitter” has been plastered over this school like a dozen buckets of paint hurled against a brick wall. The place is literally dripping with it at this point, which is bad news when you realize that the sports world reserves a special place in hell for its quitters.
Drug users? It coddles them and gives them a chance to reform – that is if they face meaningful testing at all.
Wife Beaters? Rapists? Their actions are all too often simply rationalized away.
Coaches that backstab their recruits and take jobs in the NFL? Apparently, that is part of the business.
Power forwards for the Sacramento Kings that lie to grand juries? Judges allow them to finish their season before standing trial.
Day after day, we support and defend the most vile, selfish, me-first schleps in the athletic biosphere, but the Bonnies are shoved down to the lowest, darkest possible corner of existence because they made one emotional choice that never should have been an option to them.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t agree with the players’ choice. No one does. If the 1970 Marshall football team can find a way to field a squad after a plane crash killed most of the team, I’m sure the school had other options.
But lambasting the “quitters” constantly, as the mass media has done, misses the point and ignores the real causes of the insanity at St. Bonaventure: corrupt President Robert Wickenheiser.
We are preconditioned to think that NCAA violations are caused by some combination of selfish athletes, sleazy coaches, and greedy athletic directors. We immediately assume that the university president will be the one person with his priorities in the right order.
Not so in this case.
The ineligible player in question, 6-foot-8 junior Jamil Terrell, failed to meet academic standards when he transferred last year from Coastal Georgia Community College.
So how did he get in with just a welding certificate and no high school diploma? Wickenheiser made it happen.
According to local newspaper reports, Wickenheiser and head coach Jan van Brenda Kolff formed an alliance to sidestep the university’s traditional recruiting avenues to admit athletes with questionable eligibility.
Sources told the Buffalo News that Terrell was not the only player to have his transcripts approved by Wickenheiser, and other players on the team might not have been accepted if Barbara Questa, the director of compliance, had the final say.
St. Bonaventure pushed the registrar at Terrell’s junior college to send a letter stating that his credentials were something more than what they were. When that didn’t work, Wickenheiser, who also has a son on the coaching staff, overrode the recommendations of the school’s compliance officers and ordered Terrell’s admission.
This scandal is as gross and blatant a case of lack of administrative control as the NCAA has ever seen.
Wickenheiser is supposed to be the president of a Franciscan university with nearly 150 years of integrity. Instead, he is fool that embarrasses his institution with wildly profane rants at officials from his courtside seat. Instead, he is cheater that has shown complete disregard for the NCAA’s academic standards.
Yesterday, Wickenheiser resigned after the St. Bonaventure Board of Trustees met and unanimously asked for his resignation. The board also placed van Brenda Kloff and Athletic Director Gothard Lane on administrative leave.
Much has been made about what should be done with the St. Bonaventure quitters. Tony Kornheiser called for their scholarships to be rescinded on his ESPN show “Pardon the Interruption.” The Atlantic 10 is also considering kicking the program out of the conference.
But while the players need to bare the consequences for their mistake, no one should lose track of the presidential snake that is really responsible for this mess.
Steve Jackson can be reached at