This Week in the Atlantic 10

Getting this out a little early this week since I will be away for a few days after today. Not too much to report. The Mensah-Bonsu soap opera continues at GW, more fallout from the coaching change at Richmond, and there’s a “new” Hawk at St. Joe’s.

George Washington

Reports: Mensah-Bonsu to stay in draft and lose collegiate eligibility

Rhode Island

[b][b]URI success? It's all about the money, says A.D.[/b]

By Bill Reynolds
Providence Journal
May 22, 2005

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – It’s been just about a year since Tom McElroy became the new athletic director at the University of Rhode Island, just about a year since he came here to try and move this athletic department into the new millennium.

For an athletic department is like a company these days: you’re either going forward, or you’re going back. There’s very little status quo. Especially in an era where it’s all about fundraising, college sports’ version of the arms race. Gone are the days when the athletic director is the old coach who tells a few war stories at the alumni dinner.

“Athletics is a business in an academic environment,” McElroy says, “and we are judged by three criteria: the won-loss record, graduation rates, and how we comply with NCAA rules.”

Business for sure. Twenty-two intercollegiate sports, teams which always are flying somewhere. Fourteen club sports. Intramural sports. A budget of $14.5 million.

And there’s no question men’s basketball is the public face.

You can talk all you want about student-athletes, talk all you want about all the minor sports and how successful some of them are, have all the seminars you want about the role of athletics in a university. The reality is if men’s basketball does well, the perception is that URI sports are doing well. Whether this is good or bad is irrelevant. It’s the way it is.

Rest assured McElroy knows this.

If he didn’t learn it in his two decades in the Big East office, he learned it during his three years at UConn, the state school that once upon a time was URI’s big rival, a so-called sister school, similar in many ways.

In a sense, UConn is the role model. Not in the sense that it’s realistic to expect URI to actually become UConn – a school which was the national champion in both men and women’s basketball and now also plays Division I-A football in a new stadium – but to learn from the way UConn transformed itself from a state university in the middle of nowhere to a major player on the national stage.

But how did they get there?

And what are the lessons URI can learn?

In McElroy’s view, UConn’s ascension into the rarified air of college sports is more than just a sports story, started because some of the state’s business leaders and politicians wanted to make UConn into one of the top 25 state universities in the country.

“Sports gave UConn the front porch, what was visible to everyone,” he says, “but there was a total commitment from everyone to significantly change the university.”

That’s his gameplan here.

To change the way things have always been done, including a variety of byzantine state guidelines and regulations that slow everything down.

To change the vision.

To change the culture.

It’s not the easiest of things to do. Almost by their very nature, universities move slowly, and URI always has suffered from the perception that it’s in the middle of nowhere, out of sight and out of mind. Always suffered from the perception that half the members of the General Assembly couldn’t find the campus if you gave them a map, and couldn’t care less. No matter that it’s only a half-hour from Providence, in the middle of a booming South County. Perceptions die hard.

“We are significantly underfunded for what we’re trying to do,” McElroy says. “This an institutional problem, not just an athletic one.”

So fundraising is key.

Or as McElroy says, “any athletic director who sits in his office all day is not doing his job.”

The subtext to what he’s trying to accomplish is to establish a Division I mentality, one poised for a changing future and the ability to deal with a sports landcape that’s constantly changing, evolving. One that recognizes that this is a big business, with little margin of error. One that centers around the Ryan Center.

“If the Ryan Center hadn’t been built I wouldn’t have had any interest in this job,” he says.

Which gets us back to basketball.

There’s no question that the Ryan Center changes the equation at URI, gives the school a facility that allows the Rams to compete in a competitive college basketball world. McElroy believes there’s no reason why the building can’t be routinely full for the men, and crowds of 3,000 for the women, no reason why these two sports can’t challenge for the top of the Atlantic-10 more years than not. He feels women’s basketball is going to be a hit at URI, that the right coach is in place in Tommy Garrick. They already have the best radio and TV package in the league, and the future is bright.

There’s also no question that getting people into the Ryan Center is big.

That’s the reason why teams coming in next year to play the men’s team already have been announced. Providence College. Boston College. Ohio University. Manhattan. Eighteen home games. With DePaul, Houston, and Utah coming in the following year.

The public face.

He is trying to create a buzz, get people’s attention off last year’s disappointing season and on to next year. Get people to buy season tickets. Get people on board for a future that starts now. Get people into the Ryan Center, get the place rockin’ ‘n’ rollin,’ and everything will look better.

Tom McElroy’s vision of the future.

One he wants to change the culture of URI athletics with.[/b]

Link: URI success? It’s all about the money, says A.D. [NOTE: site registration required]

Richmond!sports&s=1045855934844&DPL=JPsPDSL7ChA75gkNJuA7&tacodalogin=yes]Changes at UR[/url]

Rutgers might land N.J. star – Inside Dish

Saint Joseph’s

Andrew Moral Chosen as 29th Saint Joseph’s Hawk Mascot

[b]and there's a "new" Hawk at St. Joe's. [/b]
If he can't keep up, CLT will be very dissapointed. Methinks we should not upset CLT.

Some news out of Philly concerning Dwayne Jones (St. Joe’s) and Steven Smith (LaSalle) and their early-entry status. Both have been invited to the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp next month.

[b][b]Smith, Jones eye draft options[/b]

By Dick Jeradi
Philadelphia Daily News
May 25, 2005

Trying to predict much about the NBA draft a month out is nearly as difficult as trying to pick the winner of the Kentucky Derby when the race has 20 horses. There is simply too much that could change between now and June 28.

Two Big 5 players with a year of eligibility remaining have thrown their hats into what has become a three-ring circus. Both La Salle’s Steven Smith and Saint Joseph’s Dwayne Jones have graduated, but either could come back to play one final college season. They have until June 21 to decide if they want to remain in the draft or withdraw to preserve that final season of eligibility.

A total of 73 college underclassmen and high school players as well as 35 international players have applied for early entry into the draft. Many eventually will withdraw as a game of chicken ensues.

Smith and Jones both have been invited to the NBA’s predraft camp in Chicago (June 7-10), and will play.

At this point, according to La Salle coach John Giannini, Smith does not plan to travel for any individual workouts with teams. According to his father, also Dwayne, Jones leaves for Memphis, Tenn., today for a workout with the Grizzlies tomorrow. Jones also has workouts scheduled in Denver and Utah next week.

“We’ve been in contact with various NBA teams,” Giannini said. “We’re going to try to get teams to come to Philly to conduct workouts.”

Teams will pay to have players come to their cities for visits. But the catch is that, if that player decides to return to school, he has to reimburse the teams, according to NCAA rules.

“My job is to give him the best options possible,” the elder Jones said. “We will have everything documented for the NCAA if [Jones comes back to St. Joe’s].”

The elder Jones said his son will go back to St. Joe’s if he is not guaranteed to be a first-round choice. Neither Jones nor Smith is projected as a first-rounder at this point. Given the number of prominent underclassmen that have declared, either player would have to see his stock rise dramatically by draft time for that to change - although there are rumors that some teams near the bottom of the first round like Smith. And Jones, being 6-11, always could be attractive to somebody with guaranteed first-round money.

Consider the 108 early entries (which will go down dramatically at some point) and all the seniors. Put that alongside a total of just 60 players who will be drafted (30 are assured of guaranteed money) and you get an idea of just how complex this really is.

“The name of the game is to go through the process just to see where he is,” Jones said.

If a new collective-bargaining agreement includes a 20-year age limit, the 2006 draft could be conducted with a much smaller pool. The problem is that any new CBA isn’t going to be in force by June 21 so nobody will know by the withdrawal deadline. And they won’t know which other players are withdrawing.

St. Joe’s Jameer Nelson withdrew after declaring in 2003 and parlayed that into the 2004 National Player of the Year and first-round money in 2004. The Hawks’ Delonte West gambled last year and won when so many players withdrew that he got first-round money.

Smith and Jones will first get to show what they have. Then, they will listen to what’s out there. Finally, they will have to make a decision.[/b]

Link: Smith, Jones eye draft options [NOTE: site registration required]

[i]Originally posted by run49er[/i]@May 25 2005, 08:27 AM [b] [b]George Washington[/b]

Reports: Mensah-Bonsu to stay in draft and lose collegiate eligibility
L] [/b]

[i]Originally posted by charlotte9er1980+May 27 2005, 01:57 AM-->
[b]QUOTE[/b] (charlotte9er1980 @ May 27 2005, 01:57 AM)
<!--QuoteBegin-run49er[/i]@May 25 2005, 08:27 AM [b] [b]George Washington[/b]

Reports: Mensah-Bonsu to stay in draft and lose collegiate eligibility
L] [/b]
Why? [/b][/quote]
Mensah-Bonsu is a mystery. He claims he hasn’t/isn’t going to sign with an agent. Then there’s the agent who says he has/will. Hmmm…