[image courtesy of gobonnies.com]
By Nate Discavage @DiscavageSavage
When St. Bonaventure University announced the hiring of Tim Kenney as its new director of athletics in early March of this year, almost nobody on campus had ever heard his name. Now, practically everybody who has ever stepped foot on the St. Bonaventure campus knows who he is.
Six days ago, Kenney announced that a new row of priority seating would be added directly across from the opposing bench. The only problem: that is directly in front of the infamously-rowdy St. Bonaventure Wolf Pack. Upon hearing the news of the new seating arrangements, students and alumni alike took to social media to voice their anger. The backlash was so loud Kenney decided to open himself to questioning from the Bonaventure faithful (an edited transcript can be found here: http://bit.ly/1fpXOO9).
While emotions ranged from pleasantly welcoming Kenney into the “Bona-Bubble” to questioning his loyalty to the program, the questions all followed a similar pattern- what caused the university to do this?
Kenney pointed to a message from the Atlantic 10 Conference as one of the biggest factors behind the decision.
“The addition of the row of seats in front of the student section was part of a plan to address a point of emphasis from the Atlantic 10 Conference that was put to each institution,” Kenney said. “The emphasis is to evaluate control of the court on game day to minimize access to the playing surface.”
Members of the chat seemed understanding despite lingering disappointment- until Kenney dropped one more nugget that reignited fans.
“Over a year of analysis and consideration went into the decision. It was not a ‘snap’ decision made in the last month,” Kenney said.
Although it is not shown in the university’s edited transcript, there was an outcry asking why neither the students nor the alumni were ever informed of a plan “over a year” in the works. Multiple fans pointed out that the backlash could have been curbed if the athletic department reached out to fans for valuable input.
After mentioning he would only be able to answer a few more questions, six fans asked Kenney why the public was never informed of the decision until a week ago. Other questions seemed to grab Kenney’s attention, however, as he elected to talk about the possible addition of a men’s lacrosse team instead.
While many fans understand that the Atlantic 10 is nervous of something akin to last year’s court storming against VCU, they are bewildered as to why they were not included in the conversation.
“I can understand their logic of making the decision,” St. Bonaventure senior Reid Okoniewski said. “However, not including the people who pay to be part of the experience is ridiculous.”
Still, others felt like the university is trying to make a quick buck (or in this case $50,000).
“I think the administration is so desperate for money that they’re willing to sacrifice essential parts of the Bona culture, which is really disappointing,” St. Bonaventure junior Mary Anneliese Quinlan said.
Other highlights from the talk included:
-The university is looking to add a video board in the Reilly Center as soon as funding is secured
“I can tell you at this time we have concrete costs to upgrade to video boards in the RC and we are diligently working on funding for that project,” Kenney said. “While time is short for this coming season, rest assured it is a top priority for us.”
-The athletic department is looking at the possibility of expansion, including adding a division one men’s lacrosse team
“The department and entire university is entering a very critical planning stage,” Kenney said. “If the addition of a sport achieves the goals of the institution, then it’s definitely something we will be looking at.”
-St. Bonaventure will soon be announcing their non-conference basketball schedule
“We have one more game to get (non-conf) and once that’s done, we put out the whole non-conf schedule.”
-According to Kenney, 34 of the 48 priority seats have already been sold, but he plans on working with student government to keep the students involved.
“We are fully aware of the gofundme (account with an aim to buy seats and donate them to the students) and will be discussing with the student government some ways to possible allocate some of the courtside seats to students,” Kenney said.
“The Atlantic 10 and NCAA have become too involved in ‘further enhancing the fan experience’ with court side seats and corporate sponsors,” Okoniewski said. “Giveaways are nice, but when you take away the biggest fan experience (the Wolf Pack student section) available or tone it down… It’s awful.”
Ultimately, the new priority seating is better than the alternatives of a “barricade” or “media table.” However, St. Bonaventure fans can still question the university’s decision not to release the information earlier and avoid it during the chat.