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Pollock column: St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt discusses portal, NIL and NIT bid


A column by CHUCK POLLOCK, Sun Senior Sports Writer

Two weeks ago, as part of St. Bonaventure’s Alumni Weekend events, one of them was a panel discussion between two St. Bonaventure basketball coaches, former boss Jim Satalin and the Bonnies’ current head man Mark Schmidt.

The 45-minute session was focused on the current turmoil over the NCAA’s loose transfer portal rules and the disruption created by name, image and likeness (NIL) compensation in which players go to the highest bidder.

My long-time former Olean Times Herald sports department colleague, J.P. Butler, turned the discussion into a two-part series on those subjects.

At the time it was conducted, I was in Maine and thus was particularly interested in J.P.’s pieces.

Several of Schmidt’s comments caught my attention and they’re repeated below, with Butler’s permission, in the context of columns I had previously written.

IN ONE of those I lamented the toll the portal took on schools such as St. Bonaventure whose life bread was not one-and-dones but rather players who stayed three or four seasons, knew the system and became ingrained in the community.

The past two years, Schmidt has had to rebuild his roster virtually from scratch.

“There’s never gonna be 1,000-point scorers anymore,” he said. “I think the guys that are in the record books now, they don’t have to worry about it. Because it’s not gonna happen. We’re not gonna have guys for four years any longer.”

And though the defections make his life more difficult, Schmidt is also understanding.

“When these kids leave, it’s not like you’re upset with them,” he pointed out. “When Osun (Osunniyi) left and that whole class (of 2022) … where these kids are from; Osun was offered $400,000. He made $400,000 at Iowa State. How can you tell a kid not to do that? You can’t. Four-hundred thousand dollars may be the most money his family has ever seen.”

“You can’t not have them go. It would be like malpractice if I told them to stay. We can’t be upset at these kids, because they’re just following the rules. You can’t stop them from earning a living.”

Schmidt told the story of a player Bona could “get” for $100,000 or maybe a bit more. That was well out of Bona’s range … but it didn’t matter, he signed at another school for $800,000.

THE PERIPHERAL issue Schmidt addressed was the fallout from last March’s botched issue over an NIT bid.

To review, then-athletic director Joe Manhertz, who subsequently either resigned or was fired (your choice) called the NIT Committee and requested the Bonnies not be considered for a berth due to an undermanned roster after their semifinal loss in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. However, that wasn’t supposed to be for general knowledge. Instead, it was to appear that Bona had merely been bypassed.

But, alas, when ESPN broadcast a list of 17 teams that rejected NIT bids, St. Bonaventure was among them. Now Manhertz, under fire from the Bonnie faithful, had to admit the school hadn’t rejected a bid but rather asked not to be considered due to a shortage of players.

He then compounded the error by admitting to a group of students he didn’t expect such a reaction from alumni over the rejection of a bid to a secondary level postseason tournament.

After that he was toast. Stories quickly surfaced that he had been job-hunting after barely a year at the school and his admitted unfamiliarity with St. Bonaventure’s history and culture with men’s basketball made him as unwelcome on campus as mold on a souffle.

What bothered me was that Manhertz had to explain the opt-out, and did it poorly, but at Schmidt’s direction.

My point was that it was the coach’s decision and, after 18 successful seasons, virtually nobody would question his reasoning and that he was best-equipped to explain why.

As it turned out, St. Bonaventure was victimized by the ill-crafted transfer portal rules.

The portal opened NCAA Selection Sunday and two Bonnies, Chad Venning and Barry Evans applied immediately and Assa Essamvous shortly thereafter and once a player declares, he’s no longer part of the team. Schmidt knew he would have a severely-depleted roster and realized accepting a bid was an invitation to embarrassment.

Supposedly that scheduling gaffe will be rectified next year with the portal opening the week after Selection Sunday so that invited teams know they will have a full roster, though that did Bona no good this year.

As Schmidt explained, “What coaches do, and we did it as well, we had our exit interviews on (Selection) Sunday because we knew guys were gonna put their names into the portal on Monday. That was the whole thing that happened with the NIT … we didn’t have a team.

“But it’s now the second week, and that will give teams (more of a chance to enter postseason play).”

That makes perfect sense but Schmidt should have been the messenger rather than an AD who was in well over his head.

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

Read more great columns from Chuck Pollock, a national sports columnist of the year during his career with the Olean Times Herald:

Pollock on listening to the radio and the days of Willie Mays

Houghton’s Phil Stockin gets Cazzie Russell to the Castle in Olean and then a title for the Knicks?

• The right hire for St. Bonaventure to lead the athletic department

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