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Pollock: Revisiting Bona’s NIT blunder and the Bills’ Diggs deal

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A column by Sun Senior Sports Columnist CHUCK POLLOCK

Some reflective thoughts on the Bonnies and Bills:

IT’S BEEN just over a month since St. Bonaventure’s self-inflicted National Invitation Tournament bid fiasco.

Since then, athletic director Joe Manhertz resigned and coach Mark Schmidt has offered nary a comment.

Manhertz took the easiest out as he clearly deserved to be fired. How he could have so badly misjudged Bona alumni and fan reaction to asking the university not be considered for an NIT bid is beyond tone-deaf. In my mind, he deserved to be out of a job the moment it was leaked that Manhertz was sniffing around for other AD jobs barely a year after being hired at St. Bonaventure.

Still, Schmidt is not without blame.

We know that after the Bonnies lost to Duquesne in the Atlantic 10 semifinals at Brooklyn, he was asked about the possibility of an NIT bid. Pointing to his team’s 20 wins, Schmidt admitted he was “hopeful.”

But, less than 24 hours later, Manhertz called the NIT Selection Committee and asked that the Bonnies not be considered.

This was not the AD’s decision. At many Division I schools, “athletic director” is a partial title, the rest is “except for football and/or men’s basketball,”

Schmidt made the decision … Manhertz was merely the messenger.

Because the coach hasn’t commented, we’re left to speculate how things played out. My best guess is that Schmidt polled the team on the way home from the A-10 semis and got a less-than-enthusiastic response to continuing the season. Rather than moving on with an undermanned and/or unenthused roster, he thought it best to opt out and make it appear Bona wasn’t invited.

ESPN foiled that plan by incorrectly reporting the Bonnies had rejected a bid. That forced SBU’s athletic administration, read:Manhertz, in the face of alumni and fan outrage, to admit the school hadn’t even been invited but had opted out.

Trouble is, Schmidt’s silence left his “boss” as the fall guy and as much as Manhertz deserved to go — and he did — the whole incident could/should have been handled differently.

As in telling the truth.

If my scenario is right, Schmidt should have admitted there weren’t enough players who wanted to accept a bid to have left him with a competitive roster for a road game just days away.

He has earned enough credibility over his mostly-successful 17 years that most of the faithful would have understood the decision and attributed it to the inherent disloyalty of transfer-portal mercenaries who are ruining college basketball.

Instead an embarrassing national story, that won’t go away for Bona Nation, has made it all the more difficult for St. Bonaventure to recruit in this year’s portal arena.

THE COUNTDOWN is on for the National Football League’s 89th annual draft, April 25-27 in Detroit.

If you’re sick of all of  those mock drafts — some so-called “experts” make four or five — so am I.

In my case, the past 12 days have given me time to contemplate how desperately the Bills wanted to dump former No. 1 wide receiver Stefon Diggs.

As recounted here last week, he had embarrassed his head coach TWICE in a span of five months last year then, in the second half of the ‘23 season, his production plummeted. That, and an occasional outburst of attitude, earned him an expensive ticket out of Buffalo.

To me, as previously pointed out, Diggs for Houston’s second round draft pick in 2025 was fair. But the Bills had to toss in a sixth rounder this year and a fifth next season. Worse, the most punitive of all, they took a $31 million hit of dead salary cap money, the biggest figure ever in the NFL for a non-quarterback.

That’s how much Buffalo wanted Diggs out of Dodge.

The popular reaction to the trade was “addition by subtraction” but it was bad math for the Bills.

In the short term, with Diggs’ exit and Gabe Davis leaving via free agency, Buffalo’s wide receiver woes are only exacerbated. Even with the signing of Curtis Samuel and Mack Hollins to go with holdover Khalil Shakir, the Bills are in desperate need of a quality wideout. Buffalo picks 28th in this year’s draft which is loaded with quality receivers, but Brandon Beane, in his previous six years as general manager, has never picked a wideout higher than the fourth round (Davis).

And even now there are rumblings about Buffalo opting for a defensive lineman in the first round and Beane’s record with that approach isn’t glittering. He took end Greg Rousseau in 2022 and while he’s a capable starter, he’s hardly a star. In 2019, it was tackle Ed Oliver, who has had his moments but has been frustratingly inconsistent.

Beane has also taken two defensive linemen in the second round, end/outside linebacker Boogie Basham in 2022 and edge rusher A.J. Epenesa in 2020. Basham was such a bust he was sent to the Giants, along with a seventh-round draft pick, for a sixth rounder while, after a slow start, Epenesa started to come on last season.

What’s certain is the Bills’ entire defensive line was embarrassingly absent in the home playoff loss to Kansas City, hence the perceived need.

In short, for Buffalo, this will be a critically important draft starting determining the major priority.

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

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