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St. Bonaventure president resigns over troubled men's team

| Monday, March 10, 2003

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- St. Bonaventure President Robert Wickenheiser resigned Sunday, part of the fallout surrounding the troubles of the school's men's basketball program.

The university's board of trustees, which unanimously sought Wickenheiser's resignation, also placed athletic director Gothard Lane and head coach Jan van Breda Kolff on administrative leave. Lane had already been notified last month that his contract would not be renewed once it expires on May 31.

Van Breda Kolff hung up his phone Sunday night when reached by The Associated Press.

The board, which met in Buffalo, released a joint statement citing failed leadership.

"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.

The board appointed Fr. Dominic Monti, the school's professor of church history, as interim president. Assistant coach Billy McCaffrey was appointed the team's interim coach.

The moves come at the end of a tumultuous week.

Last Monday, the Atlantic 10 Conference stripped the team of six league victories and barred it from conference postseason play after center Jamil Terrell was ruled ineligible for violating NCAA junior transfer guidelines. A day later, the players announced they would boycott the final two games, including Saturday's scheduled season-finale at home against No. 21 Dayton.

Following the A-10 sanctions, Wickenheiser took full responsibility for approving Terrell's transfer.

Terrell, who transferred last year after two seasons at Coastal Georgia Community College in Brunswick, Ga., was ruled ineligible because he did not have an associate's degree, but had earned a certificate in welding at his former school.

Wickenheiser's son, Kort Wickenheiser, was an assistant coach under van Breda Kolff and was also placed on administrative leave.

In making its decision, the board appointed a committee to review all aspects of the men's basketball program. Jack McGinley, a Pittsburgh attorney and school alum, will head the committee, which has been charged with reviewing players' admissions policies and the program's management and decision-making to ensure the program "reflects the highest values and ideals of our institution."

The committee has been asked to submit a report by April 15.

The A-10 continues its investigation into the Bonnies, and could announce further sanctions when conference officials meet April 1.

The NCAA reserves the right to launch its own investigation and take further action against the school.

The school's students and faculty, who begin classes today after their spring break, were to be updated at an information meeting at the Reilly Center gymnasium later in the evening.

Wickenheiser became president in 1994 after serving 16 years as president at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Md.

Last season, van Breda Kolff's second at St. Bonaventure, the Bonnies finished 17-13, losing to Syracuse in the first round of the NIT.

The Bonnies were 13-14 this season, including 7-7 in the conference, before their six victories were stripped. The team's overall record does not change, pending an NCAA ruling.

Van Breda Kolff, who began his head coaching career in 1991 at Cornell, has also coached at Vanderbilt, where he reached the NCAA tournament's first round in 1997, and Pepperdine, where the Waves reached the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2000.

On Thursday, van Breda Kolff released his first statement since the team was sanctioned, standing behind his record in which he never had an NCAA infraction or violation.

"I look forward to the day when the truth about all of this will be told. ... I welcome and look forward to and will cooperate fully with an on-going investigation," van Breda Kolff said. "I stand behind my beliefs and my integrity."

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