(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
It was a frigid mid-December day, and some of my classmates and I were panicking in a nondescript Plassmann Hall classroom.
In ten minutes, we would be taking our macroeconomic principles final. We scoured our notes one more time, hoping for that one stroke of genius where we suddenly understood the material that might as well have been in a foreign language all semester.
After a few horrific exam scores, the writing was on the wall for me: pass the final, pass the class. Fail the final, get an “F” and take a business class again in the spring. No pressure.
Somehow, I passed, but if I failed, who would have really cared besides myself and possibly my mother? Other than some ribbing by my friends, there was little attention or fanfare one way or the other.
St. Bonaventure sophomore guard Nelson Kaputo doesn’t have the luxury the other 99.4 percent of the student body has. As a member of a Division I men’s basketball team, his academic struggles have been broadcast, dissected and criticized since the news of his first-semester suspension first broke yesterday afternoon.
On the Bona Bandwagon, the same fan message board where the news of Kaputo’s suspension was first posted, anonymous posters started the rampant speculation about how the Toronto native could have become ineligible. Was he not going to class? Was he not doing his work? Was he missing tutoring sessions or study halls?
The general thesis of many of those forum posts, along with some emails I received from alumni, was that Kaputo was letting the team down by failing to take school seriously and stay on top of his work.
Unless his professors’ gradebooks or attendance sheets get leaked somehow, people are making hasty assumptions on zero evidence.
“Our players come to St. Bonaventure to get a degree and represent the university in competition,” Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said in Bona’s official statement. “We want to make sure Nelson is able to achieve both of those goals.”
At no point in that statement, or Schmidt’s comments to media members on Tuesday night, did anyone say Kaputo slacked off. No one indicated that he missed study hall, blew off his tutor or chose sleep over attendance.
Kaputo’s harshest critics also show a clear ignorance in many areas. Those who say the sophomore “never shows up to class” must not see him walking along with the rest of the fray of undergraduate students heading into Plassmann, the Murphy Professional Building, the Swan Business Center or any other place of academia on campus.
Some looked up Kaputo’s listed major, journalism and mass communication, and asked me, “How hard can it be to be eligible as a journalism major?” The underestimation of the program’s difficulty is a discussion for another day, but Kaputo isn’t a journalism major anymore; when school came up in conversation a couple weeks ago, he mentioned that he had switched to international studies. Sometimes minimal research has adverse effects.
No coach or player has ever questioned Kaputo’s effort or character, but Bona fans have launched an assault on his character for the past day. The program will never release specific information on his grades, so speculation has run wild on the behaviors and actions that led to him being sat down for the semester.
Is it possible that a college kid could simply be struggling academically? Since speculating has become the way to go, perhaps he is enrolled in a class where quizzes and exams are the only grades. A few ugly test scores, like the ones I received in that macroeconomics course a year ago, could bring the overall grade down in a hurry, with very few ways to bring it up. School doesn’t come easy for everyone, even with tutoring and office hours.
Would SBU observers rather have a setup like the one that has the University of North Carolina in hot water? Fake “paper classes” designed specifically to boost the grades of Tar Heel athletes were at the center of an investigation that shed the light on 18 years of academic fraud. At Bonaventure, athletes are required to take the same classes as their peers, and sitting a player down for non-conference action in hopes that he will become eligible for A-10 play is a wise course of action.
Bona Nation should pump the brakes on judging Nelson Kaputo with no information to go by. It could set a very poor and unfair precedent.