St. Bonaventure president apologizes, AD resigns after program declines potential NIT invite

St. Bonaventure President Jeff Gingerich apologized to fans and alumni Tuesday for the university’s handling of a possible opportunity for its men’s basketball program to compete in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).

The apology, which Gingerich made in a video message, comes in the wake of St. Bonaventure athletic director Joe Manhertz’s abrupt resignation on Friday, just days after it was revealed that he declined a potential invite to the NIT. 

On Tuesday, March 19, during an opening-round NIT matchup between Xavier and Georgia, the ESPN broadcast displayed a graphic of 17 men’s programs that had opted out of the tournament this year, listing St. Bonaventure among them. The Bonnies, who finished 20-13 this season and seventh in the A-10 Conference at 9-9, had not previously announced the decision to opt out, publicly or to its players.

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“Considering the logistics of what would have been an NIT road game, we made the proactive decision Sunday afternoon to inform the NIT selection committee of our concerns regarding roster uncertainty given injury and the transfer portal that would have left us at a competitive disadvantage,” Manhertz said in a statement last Wednesday, adding that no formal invitation had been extended prior to St. Bonaventure informing the NIT committee of its decision.

Manhertz later confirmed to The Bona Venture, the university’s student-run newspaper, that the decision was made in conjunction with men’s coach Mark Schmidt and other athletic advisors following exit meetings with the players, but that it wasn’t communicated to the players until after the ESPN graphic aired on Tuesday evening. The Bonnies lost to Duquesne in the A-10 tournament semifinals on Saturday, March 16. Four players have since entered the transfer portal.

“I know many of you are upset with the events that transpired last week regarding the NIT. Quite frankly, I am too,” Gingerich said in Tuesday’s video. “You should have been informed of the team’s decision about the NIT on Sunday evening — not three days later.

“The fans of most of the other 16 teams on that ESPN graphic could not have cared less, but they aren’t Bonnies,” Gingerich continued. “You deserve better, and it won’t happen again.”

The NIT adjusted its selection process this season, including no longer awarding automatic bids to regular-season league champions that failed to win the conference tournament and were not selected for at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.

St. Bonaventure is a private Franciscan university that was founded in 1858 and is located in New York state, roughly 90 minutes south of Buffalo. Athletics administrators Barb Questa and Ryan Clingan have been named co-interim ADs as the university begins a search to replace Manhertz, who was hired in August 2021. 

Schmidt completed his 17th season as head coach of the Bonnies, having reached the NCAA Tournament three times, most recently in 2021. The program participated in the NIT in 2016 and 2022 under Schmidt, who was asked about receiving an NIT invite after the A-10 semifinal defeat to Duquesne.

“Yeah, hopefully. Who knows,” said Schmidt. “I don’t know what they think, but we won 20 games. So we had a good year.”

(Photo: Rich Graessle / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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