[Photo courtesy of department of athletics]
By Ryan Lazo, Co-editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13
The women’s lacrosse team could not field a single home game two years ago, the men’s and women’s soccer teams have had to play at high school fields, and the basketball programs have had to deal with less than ideal facilities to sell to recruits.
That is the current state of St. Bonaventure University’s athletics program. It’s a program that is below par in facilities for almost any sport in the Atlantic 10 Conference, but a new strategic plan that was announced on Monday, Oct. 22 could change all of that.
A five-year plan, two years in the making, is set to reconstruct or rennovate 15 different facilities at St. Bonaventure at a cost of $18.8 million. The reason behind the idea is simple — to continue to provide the athletic teams with a chance to win.
“Our goal is to strengthen our position in the A-10 Conference of the NCAA,” athletic director Steve Watson said. “The result is to have all of our 14 Division I teams to finish in the top half of the A-10 Conference on a yearly basis.”
The competitive disadvantage that our teams face on a daily basis is mind numbing.
While the women’s lacrosse team plays its season in the Spring, the team members still practice during the fall, and that’s where troubles arise. The lacrosse team shares a locker room with the women’s soccer team, so instead of having a place to store their equipment, the players have to carry around their sticks from class to class.
And the problem may be even more apparent on the baseball field. Watson tells a unique story of Bona head coach Larry Sudbrook and how he has seen the need for more funding.
“Larry will tell me that when he goes through the handshake line at the end of the game, he shakes the head coach’s hand, then an assistant coach and another assistant and then another,” Watson said. “Then, those opposing coaches look for his assistants to find no one because Larry doesn’t have full-time assistants.”
It may sound funny, but it’s not a good problem to have. While Bona managed to have success with both the men and women’s basketball program’s last season, that success cannot be maintained unless improvements are made.
When on a recruiting trail, what will make a recruit choose St. Bonaventure over a Big East school? Bona sure doesn’t have the facilities they do. Bona can’t offer the same type of financial package either.
But these things will slowly change as the plan is implemented, and some of that is already beginning to show.
In order to retain the coaching services of both ESPN.com’s National Coach of the Year Jim Crowley and Sporting News Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year Mark Schmidt, St. Bonaventure had to shell out some additional cash.
“Like any business out there, if you want to recruit top-level employees, you need to be competitive with your compensation,” Watson said. “And surely if you want to retain successful coaches, you need to be competitive as well.”
While Bona has overcome many obstacles to have success, most notably last season, it won’t last without improvements, and it’s the right time for the university to back this plan.