A St. Bonaventure alumnus and faculty member chronicles the school’s basketball scandal.
Scandals in college athletics are almost a blip in today’s world of rapid telecommunications and cynicism. Wieland, who now serves as a lecturer in the school’s Journalism and Mass Communications department, seems to acknowledge this reality, but he also internalizes “a college’s basketball disaster.” It is the author’s closeness to the characters and setting that puts a face on an issue that almost seems to be something new. Wieland relates how an idyllic Franciscan university got swept up in the commonplace reality of money. The details of the story are fascinating, but perhaps not for the reasons one might expect. The reader is not inundated with the seemingly lavish aspects of big-time college sports, but rather the mundane pieces of daily academics and school survival. The book’s theme revolves around the changing of a single grade of a single student basketball player. The involvement of many individuals, their actions and their conflicting accounts of those actions sometimes read like a TV crime drama, one that poses the question of what really happened. What really happened is fairly clear to Wieland, however, and he pulls no punches in his criticisms. The chapters on the school president’s apparent boondoggle land purchase or salaries sometimes seem like gossipy payback. His recollections create unmistakable good guys and bad guys. Those same recollections, though, could still leave the reader doubting. That is because Wieland is a journalist who writes like a journalist. He bases his work on interviews with the figures involved and the investigative reports resulting from the scandal, but these are not formally cited as sources and no citations are provided. There are also a few statements that seem vague, such as, “It was a common belief” or “He is said to have told the agent…” Despite using an appropriate number of quotes, it is sometimes hard to tell who is doing the talking. Ultimately, Wieland is an authoritative source, especially considering his ties with the university. He sometimes waxes nostalgic about the days when athletics was not a business, but he also acknowledges similar improprieties in his day. Although he despises the actions of some who perpetuate this big business, he is wise enough to know that the problems are systemic and historical. Wieland offers a remedy for these evils, but has no illusions about their coming to pass anytime soon.
A captivating, informative account that goes beyond local interest.