Lane ends silence, defends reputation

Ex-St. Bonaventure AD says he `got blamed' for men's basketball scandal

College Basketball

April 19, 2003|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Former St. Bonaventure athletic director Gothard Lane defended his reputation one day after he resigned his position, the latest fallout from an academic scandal in the men's basketball program.

"It's not a thing you want to put on your mantelpiece, but that's why I want to put my story out there," Lane said last night, ending a two-month silence since the controversy erupted and the team cut its season short.

Lane and coach Jan van Breda Kolff were both ousted on Thursday. Earlier, the board of trustees had obtained the resignation of Dr. Robert J. Wickenheiser after an inquiry found that he pushed for a player's eligibility without the NCAA's required associate degree or its equivalent. Jamil Terrell had a welding certificate.

Terrell's participation led to sanctions from the Atlantic 10 Conference: The Bonnies forfeited six league wins and were banned from the postseason tournament. On the same day the sanctions were announced, the players chose to sit out their final two regular-season games.

Their decision was one that Lane said he was unaware of but one that drew most of the ridicule to the school in Olean, N.Y.

"I got blamed all over the country. And I didn't have anything to do with it," said Lane, a former assistant athletic director at the University of Maryland.

He had been on his way to the Atlantic 10 women's basketball tournament when the conference announced its sanctions and immediately returned to campus. But not until the next morning did he learn the team had ended its season and most players had left.

According to Lane, it was far from the first case in which his input was overlooked, if not overruled altogether by Wickenheiser. The former president, previously the head of Mount St. Mary's, yesterday declined to comment through someone reached at his home.

In January 2002, Lane said Wickenheiser ordered him to fire compliance director Barbara Questa, sports information director Steve Mest and Greg Kennedy, who does commentary for the men's basketball games.

Lane said he was able to sidestep that command, shielding Questa by becoming a go-between. He kept the other two employed even though Kennedy no longer does commentary.

But later in the year, the Bonnies started to recruit Terrell, a 6-foot-8 center who played at Coastal Georgia Community College. In May 2002, Coastal Georgia officials told St. Bonaventure that a welding certificate did not amount to an associate degree. Lane thought that would dissuade Wickenheiser.

But going through the NCAA regulations, Wickenheiser "was picking and choosing to make his case" and declared Terrell eligible, according to Lane, who said he complained to a St. Bonaventure trustee to no avail.

On Feb. 12, Lane went to another trustee, James Gould, after the president tried to keep an unidentified player eligible by changing a class grade from "incomplete" to "withdrawal."

"We have two problems - you need to look into this one and you better go back and look up the other one [Terell], too," Lane said he told Gould.

Lane heard nothing more until Feb. 24, when Wickenheiser told him to send information about Terrell to the Atlantic 10, starting the cycle that ended with Lane out of a job.

"It ended up being my responsibility," he said. "When it blows up, and then the boycott - my reputation got blown up a bit. I didn't hide any of this."

The inquiry faulted Lane for two things. One was signing the roster sheet that vouches for every player's eligibility. The other was lessening's Questa's contact with men's basketball.

Sun staff writer Mike Klingaman contributed to this article.

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