Thursday, March 6, 2003

UD safety worries played into SBU forfeit

Dayton president wanted game site changed

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

St. Bonaventure players might have had a home game and senior night taken from them even if they had not elected to forfeit their two remaining games.

University of Dayton president Daniel Curran said he expressed safety concerns to Atlantic 10 commissioner Linda Bruno about UD's game scheduled for Saturday at St. Bonaventure. That game and Wednesday's at Massachusetts since have been forfeited by SBU after its team decided not to play.

Curran worried that Dayton might be going into a dangerous fan environment in Olean, N.Y., on Saturday because the A-10 sanctioned St. Bonaventure on Monday, barring it from the conference tournament and taking away six A-10 wins for using an ineligible player, Jamil Terrell. During a conference call with A-10 presidents Monday, Curran suggested the game be played elsewhere.

"It would not have been an ideal situation for us to go into," Curran said. "There was the potential for a hostile environment."

Atlantic 10 spokesman Ray Cella said the possibility of moving the game was discussed but never agreed upon.

Curran and St. Bonaventure president Robert Wickenheiser had planned to discuss on Tuesday changing the site of the game to a neutral venue. That conversation became unnecessary when SBU canceled the rest of its season Tuesday morning.

Curran said Bruno told him UD would be safe playing at St. Bonaventure.

"She reassured me that if we had to play the game there, we would be OK," Curran said.

Bruno was at the A-10 women's tournament in Rhode Island Wednesday and was unavailable for comment.

St. Bonaventure's Reilly Center is known as one of the most difficult places for opposing teams to play in the A-10, although the Bonnies went 4-3 there this season in conference play. Dayton has secured a first-round bye in the A-10 Tournament, and a win at SBU combined with two Xavier losses would give the Flyers the regular-season title.

"I don't understand how the game could have possibly been moved," Xavier coach Thad Matta said. "... It's always a hostile environment."

Dayton was awarded an A-10 win because of the forfeit, moving its record to 14-2 in the league. But the Flyers' overall record as recognized by the NCAA remains 21-5. Eleventh-ranked Xavier (22-4, 13-1) needs to win one of its two remaining games to secure the top seed in the A-10 Tournament.

Wickenheiser was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but a St. Bonaventure official speaking on condition of anonymity said SBU players knew their home game against Dayton was at risk, and that contributed to their decision to not continue the season.

UD coach Oliver Purnell said Dayton was prepared to play at St. Bonaventure.

"We were going to play at St. Bonaventure on senior night," Purnell said. "We were already in that mind-set."

Because the game was canceled, Dayton is allowed under NCAA rules to replace it with another game, probably against a nearby Division II or III team. Wednesday, Dayton officials were looking at the possibility of playing Sunday, five days before the Flyers' A-10 Tournament game at UD Arena.

"They would play a scrimmage or a contest," said UD compliance director Cindy Hartmann. "It would count on the official record."

The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee looks only at Division I opponents.

Purnell said he is not sure if Dayton will use the option to play a lower-division opponent. The 12 days Dayton has between its most recent game, played March 1, and its first tournament game, March 13, is a nice rest, Purnell said - especially for senior forward Nate Green, who has played with an injured shoulder.

"For the coaching staff, we get a mental break," Purnell said. "We can put a few new things in. It's kind of like a little preseason."


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