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By Lacey Gardner

Pollock: Beretta is the right guy at the right time for St. Bonaventure University


By CHUCK POLLOCK, Sun Senior Columnist

The last time a St. Bonaventure alum was in charge of the University’s athletic program was 1992 when Larry Weise ended a 20-year stint in the position. But in his case, it was merely a promotion as the coach of the Bonnies’ 1970 Final Four team had become burned out in that role.

This week the streak ended with the hiring of Bob Beretta, a former Bona baseballer, who was hired as his alma mater’s vice president and director of Intercollegiate Athletics.

That became official Friday afternoon when he was formally introduced during a press conference at the Quick Center.

HIS HIRING concluded, dare I say, another “nation-wide search,” this one less than three months after the embarrassing resignation/firing (you pick) of Joe Manhertz, the scapegoat in Bona’s request not to be considered for an NIT bid last March. The whole incident was intended to be “a secret” — it was supposed to appear that Bona hadn’t been invited — but instead was handled with the touch of a blacksmith by Manhertz once ESPN incorrectly let the feline out of the satchel.

When the sports network revealed that St. Bonaventure was one of 17 teams rejecting a bid from the tournament in which it had made the semifinals only two years earlier, Manhertz had a major problem.

He was forced to admit he had made the request for Bona not to be considered due to injuries, a short roster from upcoming defections and blah, blah, blah.

Worse, though, he revealed an incredible lack of awareness of St. Bonaventure’s culture, expressing shock that fans and alumni would be bothered by opting out of a postseason tournament that is so much part of the fabric of his school’s history.

In fairness, Manhertz was merely the messenger, not the decision-maker, though his ignorance of St. Bonaventure’s tradition was inexcusable. But the fact is, for most Div. I schools, the title athletic director comes with an asterisk … except for football and/or basketball.

Clearly the NIT decision came from coach Mark Schmidt as, for good reason, he knew he was losing virtually all of his roster to the transfer portal and that some of his players had already figuratively checked out. But it would have been much better had he made the truthful announcement himself … given his success over 17 years, the faithful would have understood.

IN MY MIND, if you concede that l’affaire de NIT wasn’t Manhertz’s decision, his much larger transgression was disloyalty. The whole episode revealed he had applied for the AD job at Colgate, his alma mater, and was in the running for the same job at UNC Wilmington, barely a year into his tenure at St. Bonaventure.

It led me to wonder who vetted Manhertz. Was the fact he had worked at Syracuse, Ohio State and Duke the siren song that caused the search committee to hire him? Was it the hearty-fellow-well-met personality seemingly a must for fund-raising?

Since Weise retired, St. Bonaventure is on its eighth athletic director: Tom O’Connor, Dave Diles, Gothard Lane, Ron Zwierlein, Steve Watson, Tim Kenney, Manhertz and now Beretta.

Interestingly, Barb Questa, Bona’s Executive Deputy Director of Athletics and Senior Woman Administrator, has served as interim AD for the last six hires while Paul Grys, a member of that Final Four team, filled that role after Lane was forced out as part of the Bob Wickenheiser/Jamil Terrel eligibility scandal (he won his lawsuit) and Zwierlein was hired.

BERETTA seems an inspired choice.

A magna cum laude graduate with a degree in mass communications and a four-year letterman and three-season baseball captain, he enjoyed a 34-year stint at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Over that time he worked his way up through 10 positions starting in sports information and finishing in athletic administration.

Most recently, he was AD at LeMoyne.

In the press release announcing his hiring, he said something that none of his predecessors after Weise could: “To have the chance to return and serve my alma mater, the institution that transformed me academically, socially and professionally, the place that inculcated all the values I was able to take into my career, is an amazing opportunity.”

When asked if he had applied for the job when his predecessor was hired, Beretta explained, “Friends contacted me to see if I might be interested, but I did not apply or pursue it, I did not give it a second thought. The goal was maybe still there, but I never would have left LeMoyne under those circumstances so short into my tenure there.”

Did he think the opportunity to be AD at his alma mater was gone for good?

“In life, you don’t always get a second bite at the apple, and when that opportunity arose, it wasn’t feasible for me, I was ingrained in what I was doing at LeMoyne. At the time I thought, ‘Well, I’ll probably never have that opportunity again, but that’s OK, I’m in a great place with great people and hopefully I can make a difference here.’  But sometimes life has a way of bringing you back to center and it certainly happened in my case.”

Saint Bonaventure president Dr. Jeff Gingerich emphasized in the release announcing the hiring, “Bob has every characteristic we were seeking in an AD, He’s a planner, a builder and a leader, someone who’s willing to be collaborative to build a special team through action and accountability with the student-athlete always at the center. The fact that he’s an alum is simply a bonus, but having a deep appreciation of our mission and values is an asset that will prove invaluable.”

Fact is, Beretta being an alum is more than a bonus, it’s what makes his hiring seem so right … he knows and appreciates the St. Bonaventure way, something about which his predecessor didn’t have a clue.

(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at

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