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By Lacey Gardner

Pollock: The NIT fiasco continues for Bona, when do we hear from Schmidt?

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A column by CHUCK POLLOCK, Sun Senior Sports Columnist

It only continues to get worse.

The situation at St. Bonaventure in the aftermath of the National Invitation Tournament controversy isn’t going away.

Coach Mark Schmidt said “Good-bye” to another key player Tuesday when sophomore forward Assa Essamvous, nee Yann Farell, opted for the transfer portal joining teammates Barry Evans, Kyrell Luc, Chad Venning and Melian Martinez.

Their exits were preceded by four players whose eligibility was used up: Mika Adams-Woods, Moses Flowers, Daryl Banks III and Charles Pride.

Excluding the walk-ons, that leaves Schmidt with one player who saw significant playing time last season, center Noel Brown, and two redshirt freshmen, Miles Rose and Duane Thompson.

At this rate, Bona’s schedule next season might be a series of 3-on-3 tournaments.

In all seriousness, this will be the third straight season Schmidt has had to build a roster virtually from scratch … but this year will be tougher mostly due to the fallout from the NIT gaffe that became, at very least, a regional story.

RESPONSE from Bonnie nation has been mostly, in a word, rage.

Initially, the fans’ ire was stoked by ESPN’s incorrect report that St. Bonaventure had turned down an NIT bid. When that proved false and the truth was Bona had asked the tournament’s selection committee not to consider SBU for the field, the fury barely subsided.

“How,” the faithful wondered, could the Bonnies decide not to participate in a postseason tournament citing injury (none serious), starting with a road game, and a numbers crunch with so many players leaving, even though an NIT appearance would merely extend the season to which they had committed.

And, in light of that, there was the obvious question: “Who’s in charge, the players or coaches?”

ATHLETIC DIRECTOR Joe Manhertz who, incredibly, didn’t think skipping the NIT would bother Bona alumni and fans, couldn’t resign fast enough though there are those who maintain he was quickly nudged out.

Naturally we never heard from him, probably at administration’s insistence.

But a number of Bona fans, on social media, have complained, “The silence from Schmidt is deafening.”

And that’s valid. Schmidt, the University’s highest-paid employee, controls the program. Nothing happens without his OK and surely nothing as important as an NIT bid. This decision was clearly his own, but it was up to Manhertz to totally bungle the public relations aspect of the announcement.

THERE’S ALSO one factor that hasn’t been brought out that isn’t without significance.

The Atlantic 10.

There are reasons it’s the eighth-rated college basketball conference in the country and one is its frequent appearances in postseason tournaments, albeit mostly the NIT. How do you think Commissioner Bernadette McGlade felt when she learned St. Bonaventure had asked not to be considered for the latter?  She already had a successful season, with two NCAA berths — Dayton and Duquesne — and four NIT bids — Richmond, VCU, UMass and Saint Joseph’s — but knowing it possibly could have been five. 

THEN THERE was the video posted by St. Bonaventure president Dr. Jeff Gingrich.

It started well enough with the predictable mea culpa over the totally-botched response to the NIT fiasco. Then the 113-second video took a weird turn. Gingrich, in effect, begged the fanbase not to bail on the Bonnies’ program and, by inference, or stop making donations.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. It left me wondering whether the video was his idea or a request from the Board of Trustees who resorted to the words of my late father, “Say something … even if it was wrong.”

It clearly was.

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

Read more from Chuck:

• Barb Questa to the rescue once again for St. Bonaventure with the AD situation

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

• 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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