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Pollock: Bona’s Manhertz’s self-inflicted NIT embarrassment ended his tenure

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A column by Sun Senior Sports Columnist Chuck Pollock

That didn’t take long.

Five days after St. Bonaventure athletic director Joe Manhertz admitted he had contacted the National Invitation Tournament selection committee and requested the Bonnies not be considered for college basketball’s oldest such event, he resigned Friday.

In my mind, the only question, in the immortal words of my mentor, Mike Abdo, “Did he jump or was he pushed?”

Given the avalanche of negative blowback from Bona fans, I’m inclined to believe the latter no matter what the press release inferred.

And the reason is St. Bonaventure’s proclivity for men’s basketball cover-ups.

Manhertz was a willing participant, but ESPN, with its own mistake, undermined him. When the sports TV network put up a list of 17 schools that had rejected a bid to the NIT, Bona was on it … the only mid-major in a group that otherwise consisted of power conference schools that are used to being in the NCAAs.

Clearly, the third-year AD’s plan was to make it appear that the NIT merely snubbed St. Bonaventure, but ESPN blew his cover.

Now he had to offer an explanation why St. Bonaventure wasn’t actually “above” being part of a tournament in which it reached the semifinals only two years ago.

That meant Manhertz had to admit he had requested the Bonnies not be considered, a decision that enraged Bona Nation.

Two things bothered those fans, that very request, for one, but also the “St. Bonaventure just didn’t get a bid” ruse.

Once the truth got out, the clock was ticking on Manhertz’s job.

But maybe he didn’t mind.

After only 19 months at SBU, he’s been tied, in print, with AD jobs at Colgate, his alma mater, and UNC-Wilmington.

For him, Bona was seemingly a mere stepping stone to a higher-profile job all along.

And, here’s why.

On Thursday, in a session with mass communications students, according to Bona’s student newspaper, Manhertz said,  “For alumni and fans that the NIT means something … that’s a dichotomy that I didn’t appreciate (understand). What I learned is that (the NIT) means a lot more to the Bonaventure alumni than it does to the Bonaventure players.”

Here’s a tip Joe, read the room.

How, after over a year-and-a-half, can an athletic director, whose starting salary was over $180,000, be so tone-deaf about the culture of the school that hired him?

COACH Mark Schmidt, after Bona lost to Duquesne in the Atlantic 10 Tournament finals, was asked whether a 20-13 record was good enough for an NIT bid. The 17th-year coach allowed he was “Hopeful.”

Twenty hours later Manhertz was begging out of a bid.

Yesterday a Bona alum offered me this scenario. “What if, on the way home from Brooklyn, Schmidt polled the team. He suddenly realized, with four graduating seniors and four others bound for the transfer portal — none of them more than mercenaries with absolutely no loyalty to Bonaventure — plus an with injury to reserve center Noel Brown, he might not be able to talk enough of them into playing another game for his team to be competitive. Thus, opting out in advance seemed the only option.”

That makes sense, as depressing as that thought is.

Before the transfer portal, when Bona’s roster was awash with three- or four-year players such a scenario would be unthinkable.

Do the players now run the program rather than the coaches and athletic administration. Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

Yesterday, I looked at a Bona TV & Radio chart that helps broadcasters identify players by sight. Taking a red Sharpie to the four graduating players — Mika Adams-Woods, Moses Flowers, Daryl Banks and Charles Pride — plus the quartet of portal candidates — Chad Venning, Barry Evans, Kyrell Luc and Melian Martinez — the x-outs made the sheet look like a two-thirds completed bingo card.

Four scholarship players remain.

And maybe that’s not all bad as rumors were rife, as Bona’s sine-wave season progressed, that there was locker room unrest and Adams-Woods has been tied to it in print.

But this isn’t all on Schmidt and Manhertz, though I wonder if, as head of the athletic department, he signed off on the ridiculous Senior Day ceremony AFTER the final home game … an embarrassing RC loss to last-place Saint Louis.

That was part of it — though a potential loss should have been considered with that ridiculous timing —  but most of the reason why a crowd of 4,700 had shrunk to a third of that was a disconnect between a mercenary roster of one- or two-season players and the fan base.

What’s certain is the aftermath of L’Affaire de NIT won’t soon be forgotten by Bona fans including certain big donors who might just reassess their contributions.

It’s a self-inflicted blight on a school whose athletic department is desperately trying to raise money and, recruiting-wise, it couldn’t have come at a worse time.

(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at cpollock@wnynet.net.)

Read more from Chuck:

St. Bonaventure made every excuse to skip the NIT except the eclipse

• A look at the current Bona player situation and how it relates to the past

• The Buffalo Bills have had darker days with cuts during off-season

• Caitlin Clark brings up memories of St. Bonaventure women and men’s basketball players

• St. Bonaventure primed for strong finish in Atlantic 10

• Feature on the Bonnies as the season winds down

• What to make from the Super Bowl

• A look at free agency with the Buffalo Bills

• Don’t blame Bass for the playoff loss

• St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt was right about the Atlantic 10 and the Bonnies

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