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Bonnies' Problems Mount

St. Bonaventure president resigns under pressure; Van Breda Kolff and Lane are put on leave.

March 10, 2003|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

The repercussions of the St. Bonaventure basketball scandal widened Sunday when university President Robert Wickenheiser resigned under pressure from the school's board of trustees and Coach Jan van Breda Kolff and Athletic Director Gothard Lane were put on administrative leave, along with Wickenheiser's son, assistant coach Kort Wickenheiser.

The action came after players refused to play the final two games of the regular season after the team was barred from the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament and forced to forfeit six conference victories because transfer Jamil Terrell never earned his junior college degree, only a certificate in welding.

Van Breda Kolff, who coached at Pepperdine for two seasons and guided the Waves to the 2000 NCAA tournament before leaving for St. Bonaventure in 2001 to return to the Northeast for family reasons, did not return a message left on his cell phone Sunday.

Wickenheiser's resignation was sought by unanimous vote of the board of trustees for the 2,200-student Franciscan university located in Olean, N.Y.

"The board believes the actions it took today and those actions it will continue to take will begin a process of healing and strong and appropriate leadership," the trustees said in a statement after holding a special meeting in Buffalo, N.Y.

The board appointed Father Dominic Monti, a professor of church history, as interim president.

Assistant coach Billy McCaffrey, a former player at Vanderbilt and Duke and the younger brother of Denver Bronco receiver Ed McCaffrey, was named interim coach.

Wickenheiser was under intense scrutiny as president because of his close association and vocal support of the basketball program and his personal involvement in the decision to admit Terrell.

The employment of his son, formerly an assistant at Wagner in Staten Island, N.Y., and at DeMatha High School in suburban Washington, also raised questions.

In a statement issued after the team was declared ineligible for the Atlantic 10 tournament, the university president acknowledged responsibility.

"My own involvement in the original decision to accept Jamil was founded on my desire to help him," Wickenheiser said. "I made this decision and I accept full responsibility for this turn of events."

Wickenheiser also told the Buffalo News he disagreed with the Atlantic 10's decision to bar St. Bonaventure from the tournament.

Terrell, a 6-foot-8 center who did not earn an associate's degree after playing two seasons at Coastal Georgia Community College in Brunswick, Ga., had started 18 games this season, averaging slightly less than seven points a game for the 13-14 Bonnies.

"I'm not involved in compliance. I shouldn't be and I don't want to be," Wickenheiser told the newspaper.

"But it's certainly a player Jan wanted and had recruited hard. I take full blame for answering the question brought to me of whether or not Jamil was eligible."

Van Breda Kolff said earlier on a weekly Atlantic 10 conference call with media that "we went through a lot of paperwork and a lot of things that were taken care of, and everybody from here on in said everything was in compliance. So we went along with what everybody else said."

The board of trustees also appointed a special committee to investigate other aspects of the basketball program and report back by April 15, and thanked Wickenheiser for his nine years as president.

"In a situation regarding many failures, one of those is leadership," the board said in its statement.

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Times wire services contributed to this report.

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